The Consumer Law Reform Bill was introduced to Parliament earlier this month and is expected to be enacted and implemented by the end of the year. Public submissions on the Bill will be invited during the select committee process, which is likely to be in June.

The Consumer Law Reform Bill is an omnibus Bill that amends the Fair Trading Act 1986 (FTA), the Consumer Guarantees Act 1993 (CGA), the Weights and Measures Act 1987 (WMA), the Carriage of Goods Act 1979, the Sale of Goods Act 1908, and the Secondhand Dealers and Pawnbrokers Act 2004. It also repeals the Door to Door Sales Act 1967, the Layby Sales Act 1971, the Unsolicited Goods and Services Act 1975 and the Auctioneers Act 1928. Matters covered by the Acts being repealed are incorporated into the amended FTA and a new Auctioneers Act.

Some of the key changes introduced under the Bill include:

  • new principles-based purpose clauses for each of the FTA, CGA and the WMA that begin with the following wording:

"to contribute to a trading environment in which -

  1. trading is fair; and
  2. there is effective competition; and
  3. consumers and businesses participate confidently."  
  • for parties "in trade" (that is, business to business transactions), allowing the parties to contract out of their FTA obligations (subject to satisfying specified requirements, including that it is fair and reasonable for the parties to be bound by such a provision);
  • a new provision to Part 1 of the FTA prohibiting the making of unsubstantiated representations;
  • extending the Disputes Tribunal's jurisdiction to cover any matter related to Parts 1 to 4A of the FTA (including complaints about misleading and deceptive conduct), but not unsubstantiated representations;
  • prohibiting unsubstantiated claims and requiring traders and retailers to ensure their claims are valid;
  • subjecting all new goods sold via auctions, and all goods sold by professional traders through online auction sites, to the acceptable quality provisions of the CGA;
  • new requirements for providing information when offering for sale and selling extended warranties; and
  • amendments to the CGA with respect to its application to the supply of gas and electricity.

The changes to the FTA, where appropriate, also align the FTA with the new Australian Consumer Law (which is included in the Australian Commonwealth's Competition and Consumer Act 2010 that came into effect on 1 January 2011) in accordance with the Government's agenda of a single economic market with Australia.