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Celebrating 10 years of Australian Consumer Law

This year we are celebrating 10 years of consistent consumer protection laws across Australia under the Australian Consumer Law.

On 1 January 2011, the largest overhaul of Australia's consumer protection laws in 25 years took place.

The Australian Consumer Law replaced 17 Commonwealth, state and territory consumer protection laws and applies nationally

The Australian Consumer Law (ACL) provides consumers with protections when buying goods or services and regulates product safety.

Rose Webb, Head of NSW Fair Trading

Examples of the new laws protecting consumers

 

In 2018, after imported kohl eyeliners caused lead poisoning in 3 children, ACL regulators worked with suppliers on voluntary recalls of the products sold in Pakistani and Indian community stores in Australia.

NSW Fair Trading and NSW Health worked together to locate and purchase suspected non-compliant Hashmi brand cosmetics in Western Sydney. The products were believed to be manufactured in Pakistan and imported to Australia.

Testing of these products showed dangerous lead content of up to 84% and high levels of dangerous metals like arsenic, cadmium, chromium and mercury.

Collaboration by ACL regulators throughout Australia and NSW Health resulted in suppliers removing the products from sale and conducting voluntary recalls.

NSW Fair Trading worked with culturally and linguistically diverse communities to warn them about the dangers of imported kohl products and what to do if they have used them. More information can be found at Warning over lead in Hashmi eyeliner on the Fair Trading website.

In 2019, online electronics retailer Android Enjoyed and Camera Sky was fined a record $3.15 million after it failed to deliver mobile phones, cameras and other electronic goods to customers across Australia.

This was the highest fine ever obtained by NSW Fair Trading.

On 4 April 2019, the NSW Supreme Court granted orders against online electronics retailer Digital Marketing and Solutions Pty Ltd trading in Australia as Android Enjoyed and CameraSky. The orders directed a penalty of $2.25M against Digital Marketing and Solutions Pty Ltd and $900,000 against its Hong Kong based Director Yuen Ho Wong. Mr Wong was also disqualified as a Director for two years.

The sizable penalty was influenced by Mr Wong’s disregard and repeated breaches of a court enforceable undertakings given to NSW in 2017 to correct his online trading in Australia.

The sanctions imposed by the court were particularly significant given the challenges of dealing with internet-based traders who have a limited physical presence in Australia. Visit Consumer rights: Myths and facts on the Fair Trading website for more information on your rights when buying products.

In 2016, unethical higher education providers targeted vulnerable consumers with ‘free’ incentives like laptops and cash to get them to sign up for courses and large Government debts.

Some of the consumers had poor literacy skills, and others could not use a computer or did not have an internet connection. Many of the students enrolled were unlikely to be able to complete the courses and would have been left with significant student debt.

Many of these consumers were unable to read or understand what they were signing up for; others were not told.

NSW Fair Trading partnered with the ACCC to train investigative staff to collect evidence to support Federal Court proceedings against nine Registered Training Operators identified to the systematic fraud of the VET FEE-HELP initiative. The investigation was informed by complaints from members of the public.

Australian Institute of Professional Education Pty Ltd (AIPE) was found to be engaging in misleading or deceptive conduct and have engaged in unconscionable conduct when enrolling consumers into online diploma courses. Another provider, Unique International College Pty Ltd (Unique) was also ordered to pay $4.165 million in penalties for similar conduct.

Cornerstone Investments trading as Empower Institute received a combined penalty of $26.5M and orders to repay $56 million in tertiary education funding to the Commonwealth. The investigation saw a revision of the VET FEE-HELP scheme. For more information, visit Education and training on the Fair Trading website.

Tragically, at least one child dies every year in Australia from furniture and televisions toppling over.

A national campaign was run in 2016 to warn parents, grandparents and carers about the dangers of unsecured furniture and TVs and the importance of installing anchoring devices in Australian homes.

Suppliers were also encouraged to implement best-practice guidelines, developed by industry stakeholders in coordination with the National Retail Association. These initiatives included ways of making furniture more stable, securing it with anchors, and alerting consumers to the dangers via warning labels and in-store signage at the point of sale. More information can be found at Toppling furniture and televisions on the Fair Trading website.

In 2016, ACL regulators ran a national campaign to educate consumers with disabilities, their carers and businesses providing goods and services under the NDIS, about their rights and obligations under the ACL.

NSW Fair Trading delivered information sessions to more than 9,500 of the most vulnerable consumers in our society and the people that support them. More information can be found at Consumers with disabilities on the Fair Trading website.

In 2011, Danoz Direct agreed to change a number of its business practices after an investigation led by NSW Fair Trading on behalf of all Australian consumer protection agencies.

The investigation found a number of breaches of the ACL including misleading representations about products and their true cost, difficult to access terms and conditions, non-delivery of goods and consumers continuing to be charged for goods they had returned. Find out more about Misleading representations and deceptive conduct on the Fair Trading website.

In 2017, following an investigation by Consumer Affairs Victoria, assisted by NSW Fair Trading and the Queensland Office of Fair Trading, the Federal Court found that Daiso Industries (Australia) Pty Ltd supplied a range of toys and other products for children that did not meet mandatory safety or information standards. This followed an investigation by Consumer Affairs Victoria, assisted by NSW Fair Trading and the Queensland Office of Fair Trading.

Toys suitable for young children must comply with a mandatory standard to avoid choking and other hazards.

Daiso was ordered to pay $1 million in penalties, pay costs of $160,000, implement a compliance plan, and pay the disposal and destruction costs of goods purchased by regulators. More information on product safety can be found at Children’s products and toys on the Fair Trading website.

In 2018 NSW Fair Trading initiated the inspection, compliance testing and national recall of 80,000 G8Safe swimming pool gate latches.

The investigation found the G8Safe pool gate latch could be locked with the gate in the open position, preventing self-latching. This allowed ease of access to the pool area, presenting an unacceptable drowning risk to young children. The investigation resulted in the recall of 80,000 non-compliant gate latches and recommended changes to the mandatory Australian Standard for pool gate latches.

Most drownings in private swimming pools involve children under the age of 5 years. Inadequate pool fencing is a major contributing factor to drownings. Visit Swimming pools and spas on the Fair Trading website for more information on pool laws and safety.

In 2017-18, after a number of high-profile event failures, NSW Fair Trading led a national project to educate event organisers and ticket platforms about their responsibilities under ACL when holding pop-up events like music, wine and food festivals.

The project had a positive effect with only 6% of the events finalised within the project period having significant issues affecting consumers’ experiences or complete event failures. Visit Festivals and events on the Australian Consumer Law website for more information.

In 2020, Jonval Builders P/L & Others was ordered to pay approx.$2.3 million in damages plus court costs for engaging in misleading and deceptive conduct and unconscionable conduct in the sale of relocatable homes.

Relocatable homes are often purchased by older consumers and other lower-income consumers.

Homes marketed and sold to consumers for long-term/permanent occupation must have the correct planning and local government approvals in place. Find out more about Misleading representations and deceptive conduct on the Fair Trading website.

Last updated: 11 March 2021
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