Advocates Respond to Meeting of Consumer Affairs Ministers

Consumer advocates have welcomed the decision by Consumer Affairs Ministers to support key changes to the Australian Consumer Law.

Consumers’ Federation of Australia have joined member organisations in welcoming the response from Australian Ministers for Consumer Affairs to the Review of the Australian Consumer Law.

CFA member organisation CHOICE welcomed the announcement stating:

“Today Ministers committed to action every recommendation from the recent Review of the Australian Consumer Law. This means that consumers will soon have safer products and that companies will face real penalties when they break the law,” says CHOICE Acting Director of Campaigns & Communications Erin Turner .

“When we drive our car to work, we shouldn’t have to worry that an airbag inside might malfunction and kill us. When we wash our clothes in a washing machine, we should be able to do so without risking a major fire. Consumers will be able to have greater trust in what they buy once these important changes are made to the Australian Consumer Law.”

CHOICE also welcomed the Ministers’ decision to look further into the ticket resale market following the release of CHOICE’s Sold Out report, which found an industry riddled with problems and confusion.

CFA member Consumer Action Law Centre has highlighted a number of promising developments in key campaign areas.

Debt Vultures

“Long-overdue reform of Debt Vultures is finally on the agenda. So-called ‘debt management’ firms have been flourishing in a regulatory gap, preying on people struggling to make ends meet”, said Consumer Action CEO Gerard Brody.

Retirement Living

Following revelations in the media about bad practices in the retirement village industry, Ministers agreed to direct CAANZ to undertake further investigation into the regulation of retirement villages, including identifying any regulatory gaps that allow unfair practices to occur.

“Residents and their families have been dealing with excessive fees, complex contracts and poor training and accreditation standards for too long. Residents should be able to enjoy their retirement without having to worry about being treated like cash cows”, said Mr Brody.

$10 million penalties for breaches of consumer law

Both Consumer Action and CHOICE embraced the proposal to increase penalities for breaches of the Australian Consumer Law.

“We strongly support increasing penalties for breaching Australia’s consumer protection laws. The current penalties have not been big enough to deter bad behavior, and everyday Australians have paid the price. Until now, fines have been considered by some companies as simply the cost of doing business. These reforms will give the regulator the firepower it needs to ensure businesses play by the rules”, said Mr Brody.