ARA welcomes consumer law consolidation
Peak retail industry body the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) has welcomed the decision by the Ministerial Council on Consumer Affairs to consolidate nine consumer protection laws into one national law but is calling on the Government to provide education to retailers about the new legislation.
ARA Executive Director Richard Evans said, while a national approach to consumer law is a step in the right direction, what the market really needs is education for retailers so they don’t unwittingly hurt consumers. “Cleaning up red tape for retailers operating across state borders is an important agenda for the ARA and while the nationalisation of consumer laws will provide some consistency across the current contradictory requirements, educating retailers is the best way to protect consumers,” he claimed. “If retailers were well-informed and educated about their consumer law requirements many disputes would be avoided. While this is a step in the right direction, we are encouraging governments to provide support and education to retailers when they bring in their new legislation.”
The new national consumer law is expected to be in operation from 2011, with the ACCC taking greater control of administration – they will work in conjunction with the state and territory offices of fair trading.
The national consumer law is to be based on the consumer protection provisions of the Trade Practices Act 1974, although it will “incorporate amendments reflecting best practice in state and territory legislation.” ASIC will retain responsibility for administering consumer law that applies to financial services.
Mr Evans added he hoped the move towards national consumer law will trigger a more comprehensive program of red-tape nationalisation to assist improving business productivity. “There is still a need to address wider regulatory burdens and inconsistencies across archaic state laws including OH&S, retail leasing, payroll tax and food safety. In this time of economic uncertainty, business needs to see the Federal Government easing bureaucratic burden,” Evans suggested.
The consolidation of consumer law was recommended by the Productivity Commission, who believe the national legislation could save consumers and businesses up to $4.5b a year. More information about the changes can be found at: www.ausfoodnews.com.au/2008/08/18/new-consumer-law-to-ensure-nationwide-consistency.html.