The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has launched an online education module that explains the new consumer guarantees to business owners, managers and sales staff.
Consumer guarantees are a set of new rights for consumers when they buy goods or services. The 12 guarantees outline the circumstances where a business is required to provide a remedy to a consumer, and they replace the implied conditions and warranties in the Trade Practices Act 1974 and state and territory consumer protection provisions.
The guarantees are contained in the Australian Consumer Law, which becomes law on 1 January 2011.
The ACL brings together a number of national, state and territory consumer protection laws, so all Australian businesses are on a level playing field in their dealings with consumers. It will be enforced by the ACCC and state and territory consumer protection agencies.
“The consumer guarantees are based on the same principles as the current implied terms, but provide more clarity for businesses and consumers about the circumstances where businesses are required to provide a remedy,” ACCC deputy chair Michael Schaper said. “The consumer guarantees also introduce some new guarantees, for example, goods must be of acceptable quality and services must be provided within a reasonable time if no timeframe is agreed.”
The consumer guarantees also clarify who is entitled to choose the most appropriate remedy—the supplier or the consumer.
“If a good or service does not meet the consumer guarantees, then a consumer can take action to obtain a remedy from the seller, service provider or manufacturer/ importer,” Dr Schaper said. “The appropriate remedy will depend on the circumstances and the seriousness of the problem, but could include a refund, replacement, repair or having an unsatisfactory service performed again.
“Generally, if the failure to comply with the guarantee is not major and can be remedied within a reasonable time, the supplier can choose whether to repair or replace the good, resupply the services or provide a refund.
“It is vital that businesses and their staff understand both the rights of consumers under the new guarantees, as well as their own rights. Where the guarantees have been met, there is no obligation for businesses to provide a remedy under the consumer guarantees provisions—for example, if a consumer changes their mind. However, businesses must still comply with any additional obligations imposed by any voluntary or extended warranties they offer.”
Dr Schaper said the ACCC developed the education module with assistance from state and territory consumer protection agencies, as well as a number of industry participants, and it explains how the new law applies to the supply of both goods and services.
“The online education module is available for all businesses to use as part of their own staff training and I encourage all businesses – regardless of size – to do this.”
The module can be used on the ACCC website at www.accc.gov.au/consumerguarantees.
More information on consumer guarantees and the ACL more broadly can be found on the ACCC and state and territory fair trading websites and at www.consumerlaw.gov.au.