The Treasury has asked for public submissions on five proposals that would make changes to the consumer guarantees regime in the Australian Consumer Law (Schedule 2 to the Competition and Consumer Act 2010). The proposals are based on a wide-ranging review of the Australian Consumer Law that was undertaken by Consumer Affairs Australia and New Zealand (“the CAANZ Review”). For more information on the background to the review, and the CAANZ Final Report, see TimeBase’s earlier article.
The Treasury has now released a Consultation Regulation Impact Statement (“the Consultation RIS”) that covers the five proposals. According to the Statement:
“A Consultation RIS presumes that there may be scope for the Government to take action to address an identified problem. The purpose of the Consultation RIS, therefore, is ‘to canvass the regulatory options under consideration, in order to determine the relative costs and benefits of those options.’”
Public submissions on the Consultation RIS close on 9 March 2018.
Chapter 1 of the Consultation RIS deals with increasing the threshold at which a buyer is considered to be a “consumer” of goods. Currently, there is a threshold applied so that a buyer is a consumer if the purchase price does not exceed $40,000. This threshold has not changed since 1986, when it was introduced. The CAANZ Review proposed an increase of the threshold to $100,000. The Consultation RIS outlines three options: maintaining the status quo, increasing the threshold to $100,000 or increasing the threshold to $100,000 and applying indexation.
Chapter 2 deals with the clarification of some of the consumer guarantees under the Act. Currently, there is a distinction between “major failures”, which result in the consumer having the right to reject the goods and choose a remedy, including a refund and “non-major failures”, which result in the supplier choosing a remedy. The CAANZ Review found there was uncertainty about how this distinction should be applied. The Consultation RIS suggests 3 options:
Chapter 2 also deals with uncertainty about whether multiple non-major failures should be considered collectively as a major failure. The Consultation RIS again suggests three options: maintaining the status quo; explicitly outlining that multiple non-major failures can amount to a major failure; or more explicitly specifying a number of non-major failures that would amount to a major failure.
The CAANZ Review recommended more clarification around extended warranties, in order to aid consumers in determining if they provided extra protection outside the Australian Consumer Law. Chapter 3 canvasses options including maintaining the status quo; a legislative amendment comprising a cooling-off right, oral disclosure and written disclosure; and oral and written disclosure with an opt-in process.
The CAANZ Review proposed modernizing the currently “sale by auction” exemptions from the consumer guarantees, on the basis that online auctions do not allow consumers to inspect goods and identify defects prior to purchase in the same way that traditional auctions do. Chapter 4 sets out four possible options:
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