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Consumer law reform

The Government is revising consumer law to help consumers transact with confidence and support honest business practices. Ten laws are being changed, including the Consumer Guarantees Act and the Fair Trading Act.

The Government is revising consumer law to help consumers transact with confidence and support honest business practices. Ten laws are being changed, including the Consumer Guarantees Act and the Fair Trading Act.

On this page:

See Changes to consumer laws for information for businesses and consumers about the law changes.

Objectives of the Consumer Law Reform Bill

The objectives of the Consumer Law Reform Bill are to revise and update consumer law so that it:

  • is principles-based
  • enables consumers to transact with confidence
  • protects suppliers and consumers from inappropriate market conduct
  • is easily accessible to those who are affected by it
  • achieves harmonisation with the Australian Consumer Law, as appropriate, in accordance with the Government's agenda of a single economic market with Australia (SEM).

Having strong and relevant consumer legislation is very important for both consumers and businesses.

Consumer legislation is an important contributor to consumer confidence and successful consumer participation in the marketplace. Consumers transacting with confidence contribute to a productive and innovative economy.

For business, effective consumer laws help to create a competitive business environment where reputable suppliers are protected from the inappropriate market conduct of competitors.

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Laws being reviewed

The consumer law reform covers the:

  • Consumer Guarantees Act
  • Fair Trading Act
  • Weights and Measures Act
  • Carriage of Goods Act
  • Sale of Goods Act
  • Secondhand Dealers and Pawnbrokers Act
  • Auctioneers Act
  • Door to Door Sales Act
  • Layby Sales Act
  • Unsolicited Goods and Services Act.

Each of these main consumer laws are being reviewed, looking at:

  • its history, original purpose and ongoing relevance
  • any gaps in the law and the overall effectiveness of the law particularly its enforceability.

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Background to the reform

The Bill reflects the outcomes of a review of consumer law initiated in 2009. Proposed amendments to consumer law were outlined in a discussion document in June 2010.

Following consideration of written and oral submissions, further analysis was set out in additional papers. Submissions were also received on the additional papers. See:

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Progress of the Bill

The Bill is ready for the final legislative stage, Royal Assent. Usually Royal Assent takes place within a week of the Third Reading, so is expected by 16 December 2013.

Information about the progress of the Bill through Parliament is given below (most recent events are listed first).

See Parliament Brief: The legislative process for information about the stages involved in passing legislation.

Third reading

The Bill received the Committee of the whole House stage on Tuesday 3 December 2013, and the Third Reading on 10 December 2013.
See Consumer Law Reform Bill passes third reading – press release from the Minister of Consumer Affairs, Hon Craig Foss.

Supplementary Order Papers

On 17 April 2013, the Minister of Consumer Affairs tabled a Supplementary Order Paper (SOP) to the Bill.

The SOP adjusts some of the drafting in the Bill reported back by Select Committee. For example, some sections have been renumbered and some clarifications have been made. The commencement time for unfair contract terms has been adjusted to 15 months instead of six months after enactment to allow extra time for businesses to amend standard form contracts that don’t meet the new rules.

See:

The SOP of 17 April was updated and replaced by an SOP dated 2 July 2013. This update improved the wording of the Bill and further clarified the unfair contract terms provisions.

A further SOP dated 3 December made a correction to the electricity indemnity provisions and added a regulation-making power about uninvited direct sales.

There have also been some technical SOPs that divide the Bill into separate Acts.

Second reading of the Bill

On 2 October 2012, the Commerce Committee reported back to Parliament on the first draft of the Consumer Law Reform Bill. The Committee recommended a number of amendments to the Bill. The Bill had its second reading in parliament on 12 December 2012.

Read the second reading speech by then Minister of Consumer Affairs, Simon Bridges.

The Committee considered about 90 submissions on the Bill, including about 60 oral submissions. See:

First reading of the Bill

The Consumer Law Reform Bill passed its first reading on 9 February 2012. Parliament's Commerce Committee was asked to examine the Bill.

Read the first reading speech by then Minister of Consumer Affairs, Hon Chris Tremain.

The Bill's explanatory note includes a general policy statement that discusses the background to the Bill and some of the main changes. See:

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New government regulations

The Consumer Law Reform Bill requires the development of some new government regulations.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment has consulted with auctioneers and other interested parties on proposed new fees and registration information requirements for auctioneers.

See the discussion paper: New Auctioneers Act – Proposed Regulations on Auctioneers' Fees and Registration Information.

Comments were due by 27 November 2013. Consultation has now closed.

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Cabinet papers and decisions on Consumer Law Reform

Consumer Law Reform Cabinet Paper 1  [PDF format, 1.7MB]

Consumer Law Reform Cabinet Paper 2  [PDF format, 1.4MB]

EGI Decision for Consumer Law Reform Cabinet paper 1  [PDF format, 63MB]

EGI Decisions for Consumer Law Reform Cabinet paper 2 [PDF format, 69KB]

EGI Paper July 2012 Consumer Law Reform Additional Decisions

EGI Regulatory Impact Statement CLR Dec 2010 [PDF format, 213KB]

EGI Regulatory Impact Statement CLR Feb 2011 [PDF format, 289KB]

EGI Regulatory Impact Statement Additional Decisions

Questions and answers about the Consumer Law Reform [PDF format, 60KB]

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Discussion document on Consumer Law Reform

Consumer Law Reform: A Discussion Paper [web format]

Consumer Law Reform: A Discussion Paper [PDF format, 1.3MB]

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Consumer Law Reform – Additional Papers

Unfair Contract Terms (September 2010)

This document provides further analysis of the proposition that the Fair Trading Act 1986 could be amended to include unfair contract terms provisions. 

Consumer Law Reform Additional Paper: Unfair Contract Terms [PDF format, 187KB]

Referencing Good Faith in a Fair Trading Act Purpose Clause (October 2010)

This paper provides further analysis about the appropriateness of including a reference to good faith in the purpose statement.

Consumer Law Reform Additional Paper : Referencing Good Faith in a Fair Trading Act Purpose Clause [web format]

Consumer Law Reform Additional Paper : Referencing Good Faith in a Fair Trading Act Purpose Clause [PDF format, 68KB]

Unconscionability (October 2010)

This paper provides further information on the application of the unconscionable conduct provisions in the Australian Trade Practices Act 1974, with the objective of informing the decision of whether or not equivalent provisions should be added to the Fair Trading Act 1986 in New Zealand.

Consumer Law Reform Additional Paper: Unconscionability [web format]

Consumer Law Reform Additional Paper: Unconscionability [PDF format, 131KB]

Layby Sales (October 2010)

This document provides further analysis of the proposal that the provisions of the Layby Sales Act 1971 could be incorporated into the Fair Trading Act 1986.

Consumer Law Reform Additional Paper: Layby Sales [PDF format, 112KB]

Electricity and the Consumer Guarantees Act (October 2010)

This document provides further analysis of the application of the Consumer Guarantees Act 1993 to electricity.

Consumer Law Reform Additional Paper: Electricity and the CGA [PDF format, 119KB] 

Substantiation (November 2010)

This paper provides further analysis on the possible inclusion of a general prohibition on unsubstantiated claims in the Fair Trading Act 1986.

Consumer Law Reform Additional Paper: Substantiation [PDF format, 133KB]

Auctions, Auctioneers and the Consumer Guarantees Act (November 2010)

This document provides further analysis on the regulatory regime for auctioneers and auctions. 

Consumer Law Reform Additional Paper: Auctions, Auctioneers and the Consumer Guarantees Act [PDF format, 214KB]

Unsolicited goods and services

This document provides further analysis on ongoing regulation of unsolicited goods and services and its proposed form.

Unsolicited goods and services [PDF format, 66KB]

Consumer Information Standards Additional Paper

Consumer Information Standards [PDF format, 85KB]

Uninvited Direct Selling Additional Paper

Uninvited Direct Selling [PDF format, 83KB]

Collateral Credit Agreements & Rejection under the CGA Additional Paper

Collateral Credit Agreements & Rejection under the CGA [PDF format, 112KB]

Carriage of Goods Additional Paper

Carriage of Goods [PDF format, 113KB]

Fair Trading Act Enforcement Additional Paper

Fair Trading Act Enforcement [PDF format, 174KB]

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Submissions

Submissions on the consumer law reform discussion paper are now closed.

Summary of the submissions received.

All submissions on the consumer law reform discussion paper.

Submissions on the Electricity and the Consumer Guarantees Act additional paper.

Submissions on the Good Faith additional paper.

Submissions on the Layby Sales additional paper.

Submissions on the Unfair Contract Terms additional paper. 

Submissions on the Unconscionability additional paper.

Submissions on the Substantiation additional paper.

Last updated 11 December 2013