The Australian case of ACCC v Hewlett-Packard Australia Pty Limited [2013] FCA 653 is a good reminder of the importance of correct training for all staff dealing with consumers – including, in particular, call centre staff.

Hewlett-Packard's (HP) call centre workers followed a script provided by HP when answering questions from consumers. The script contained a number of misrepresentations as to the consumers' rights in breach of the Australian Consumer Law, such as claiming that consumers' remedies were limited to those available from HP at HP's discretion and that consumers had to have products repaired multiple times before being entitled to a replacement.

The remedies agreed between the ACCC and HP included that HP would:

  • Send a notice to all retailers setting out the rights of consumers to return products not of acceptable quality
  • Put a notice in a prominent place on its websites setting out consumers' rights, and would keep that notice there for a period of three years
  • Publish notices in 10 newspapers of the false and misleading conduct it had engaged in
  • Implement a compliance programme to prevent future breaches of the Australian consumer law.

In addition HP agreed to pay a fine of A$3,000,000 and contribute A$200,000 to the ACCC's costs.

If these actions had been committed in New Zealand, they would have amounted to misrepresentations under the Fair Trading Act 1986.

These types of remedies could be agreed with the Commerce Commission in relation to a substantial breach of the Fair Trading Act 1986. A court in New Zealand might also order similar remedies in the event that such a breach went to trial.