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The Productivity Commission has recently launched a study into the enforcement and administration arrangements underpinning the Australian Consumer Law.

The study will focus on the effectiveness of the ‘single-law, multiple regulator’ model – a model where the national consumer law is jointly enforced and administered by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and state and territory consumer agencies, with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) enforcing similar consumer protections for financial products and services.

But what actually is Australian Consumer Law?

The ACL acts as an umbrella term to a series of consumer protections including:

  • Door-to-door and telephone sale consumer rights
  • Considered ‘unfair terms’ within contracts for both individual and small business consumers
  • Lay-by agreements
  • Product safety
  • Enforcement powers and penalties

And what is the Productivity Commission study?

The Federal Government has asked the Commission to conduct a study into the current enforcement arrangements which are one of the key pillars of ACL.  The primary objective of the study is to develop a firmer understanding of how the current multiple regulator framework can cohesively operate to support the ACL.

The study also intends to draw out possible mechanisms which can support the ACL, through input from other experienced regulators within the consumer policy sector.

Just last week the Commission published their issues paper. The paper outlines areas in which the Commission is seeking further information on. These areas include:

  • Resourcing issues: Are the current resources provided to consumer protection adequate and proportionate to ACL risk management?
  • Enforcement tools and approaches: Are the ACL regulators achieving appropriate risk-based enforcement in practice? And are the modifications to approaches of ACL regulators justified?
  • Allocation of issues and responsibilities between regulators: How effective is both the communication and cooperation between ASIC, Commonwealth regulators and state/territory ACL regulators? How are the issues that exist within specific jurisdictions allocated between state, territory and national ACL regulators?
  • Intelligence gathering and sharing: What are the current arrangements in place for ACL regulators as well as specialist safety regime regulators in sharing information on consumer protection issues on a national scale?

Productivity Commission Issues Paper, July 2016

More information

These areas and further information requests are available on the Productivity Commission’s website, available at the end of this article. Submissions for the Commission’s report are due by the 30 August 2016.

The first draft of the report is to be published in November 2016, with the final report being published in March 2016. Participants will have the chance to read drafts and provide input.

CFA looks forward to the report’s publication and encourages members to prepare their submissions.