Consumer advocates have responded to the Australian Consumer Law Review conducted by Consumer Affairs Australia and New Zealand, noting some great wins for Australian consumers.

Consumer Action Law Centre (CALC) CEO Gerard Brody said in a media release that there are some important changes on the horizon.

‘The Final Report proposes to make insurance contracts fairer, and make it easier for people to enforce their rights under the Australian Consumer Law,’ said Mr Brody.

‘The Report’s proposal to extend unfair contract terms laws to insurance contracts makes perfect sense. The current gap in the law means that people can get nasty surprises when they make claims.’

‘It’s time to end the special treatment for insurers.’

‘We look forward to working closely with the government and insurers to make sure the law provides real protections – so that the policy fine print is fair and legitimate in every case.’

Consumer Action was also impressed by the proposal to introduce strong ‘lemon laws’ for all recently purchased goods. Under the proposal, if a good fails to meet the consumer guarantees (for example, it is faulty) within a short specified period of time, the buyer will be entitled to a refund or replacement without needing to prove the technical legal test of ‘major failure’.

Mr Brody said that proposals to increase maximum penalties for breaches of the Australian Consumer Law to $10 million for companies will help to deter bad behaviour.

Erin Turner, acting director of content, campaigns and communication at CHOICE, also embraced the greater penalties recommended by the review.

“Aligning penalties with any benefit a company receives from breaking the law is an elegant solution to this problem”, said Ms Turner.

“Companies like Reckitt Benckiser, who sell Nurofen, gained about $45 million in revenue from products which were found to breach the consumer law. Small penalties in the face of this kind of windfall are grossly inadequate.”