The Australian Consumer Law (ACL) is a uniform piece of legislation governing consumer rights and protection laws in Australia.
There are other pieces of legislation that may assist in addition, or instead of, the ACL, including the Sale of Goods Act, Fair Trading Act, ASIC Act and more.
The ACL is arguably one of the most powerful pieces of consumer protection legislation to ever have come into existence. The provisions of the ACL operate on a national level and apply to matters involving the sale of goods and services in every State and Territory in Australia.
This involves most business to consumer (B2C) and business to business (B2B) transactions.
Generally speaking, a business cannot contract out of the Australian Consumer Law.
Certain fundamental consumer guarantees will generally not apply in circumstances where a consumer:
- Changes their mind about the purchase of a product (i.e. they wish to return the product in order to purchase it from a different manufacturer at a lower price);
- Has misused a product in a way that has caused unreasonable damage to the product that would not otherwise have occurred if they had used the product correctly;
- Was informed about a defect to the product before they purchased it;
- Explicitly requested a service to be performed in a specific way against the advice of the supplier of the service; or
- Was unclear or vague about the way they intended to use a particular product or service, and the product or service subsequently failed to meet their expectations.
The ACL is a national law that exists to protect all consumers.
The primary objective of the ACL is to ensure individuals and businesses involved in all different aspects of trade and commerce abide by and follow fair sales practices, and to verify that all consumers can expect to be offered fair contract terms, basic consumer guarantees, reasonable product safety warranties and all other fundamental consumer rights each and every time they acquire a good or service.
Although the ACL generally governs the conduct of corporations in relation to the provision of goods or services to consumers, obligations under the ACL can also apply directly to individuals.
Examples of situations where an individual may be held directly liable for the breach of a particular provision under the ACL can include (but is not limited to) situations where:
- An employee or agent of a company has intentionally provided misleading or deceptive information about a product or service to a consumer;
- An employee or agent of a company has unintentionally provided inaccurate information about a certain product or service to a consumer that influences the consumer’s decision to acquire the good or service; or
- A director of a company may be considered “a person involved in” the contravention of a provision under the ACL in some circumstances.
The provisions of the Australian Consumer Law that are typically disputed the most include claims involving misleading and deceptive conduct and claims that concern defective or unsafe goods or services.