Compliance and enforcement

The following agencies enforce provisions relating to consumer goods and services:

  • Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC)
  • NSW Fair Trading
  • other state and territory consumer protection agencies
  • Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has particular jurisdiction in relation to financial products and services, such as contracts for banking services, home loans or credit cards.

Compliance

Australian Consumer Law (ACL) regulators aim to promote a high level of compliance with the law. For this, both consumers and traders need to be aware of their rights and responsibilities, and how to obtain redress. Providing information and advice to consumers and traders for this purpose is a key function of ACL regulators.

Enforcement

The Australian Consumer Law (ACL) includes enforcement powers, penalties and remedies that can apply for breaches or suspected breaches of the ACL: Chapter 5. The ACL is a single national law enforced in all jurisdictions by the various jurisdictions’ consumer regulators.

Criminal prosecution for breaches of the law is only one of a range of approaches ACL regulators may take to ensure compliance with the law. Other tools and strategies include:

  • education and advice
  • voluntary industry self-regulation codes
  • dispute resolution
  • formal written warnings
  • infringement notices
  • court orders or injunctions
  • compensation orders
  • civil penalties, including pecuniary penalties and disqualification orders.

ACL - new enforcement powers

Undertakings - a regulator may accept a court-enforceable undertaking, eg if a person becomes aware that they may have breached the ACL, they may offer an undertaking that certain conduct will not occur again. A regulator is not obliged to accept the undertaking (section 218).

Substantiation notices - this is a tool to seek information about claims or representations in the marketplace; regulators can issue a notice to a business to provide information or documents to support a claim.

Public warning notices - regulators can issue a notice warning the public about conduct which may be detrimental (section 223).

Infringement notices - the ACCC or ASIC can issue infringement notices for suspected breaches of the ACL.

Dispute resolution

State and territory ACL regulators play an important role in resolving disputes between consumers and traders about good and services covered by the ACL. Each regulator provides information on its website about dispute.

Private rights

Aside from compliance and enforcement by ACL regulators, the ACL creates private rights that persons can enforce through Commonwealth, state and territory courts and tribunals.