The national Compliance and Dispute Resolution Advisory Committee (CDRAC) ensures that compliance and dispute resolution across Australia is coordinated, efficient, responsive, and where appropriate, consistently applied. CDRAC is currently Chaired by NSW Fair Trading therefore NSW plays a significant leadership role in the coordination of dispute resolution, compliance and enforcement matters at a national level.
During 2017-2018 and 2018-2019, Australian Consumer Law (ACL) regulators have agreed to undertake a series of national compliance projects to promote awareness and compliance with the ACL among businesses nationally.
Current and recently finalised projects include:
This project will proactively engage with pop-up event organisers promoting events with high-risks of issues that may significantly affect consumers’ experiences, with the aim of increasing compliance with and knowledge of ACL. Regulators are looking to minimise instances of poor consumer experiences and ensure event organisers immediately offer appropriate remedies when events are cancelled or fail to meet consumer expectations.
This project aims to ensure consumers and traders using peer-to-peer- or sharing economy platforms such as Uber and AirBnb are aware of their ACL rights and obligations.
Engagements occurred with sharing economy platforms to ensure they are aware of their obligations and to understand consumer law issues in this emerging sector. The Education and Information Advisory Committee (EIAC) is also conducting research into ACL awareness amongst sharing economy users and will conduct education campaigns to further increase awareness.
Consumers with disability & the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS)
Along with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), NSW Fair Trading is coordinating a national response to issues impacting consumers with disability, particularly those managing and receiving goods and services under the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
Service delivery mapping
Service delivery mapping aims to create an easily accessible suite of tools that ACL regulators can call upon, identifying how ACL regulators manage general enquiries and complaints, and other services they provide.
As part of this NSW-led national project Fair Trading undertook compliance and enforcement activities against non-compliant traders, in addition to educating consumers and traders about their rights and obligations under the ACL. The project delivered education to raise awareness amongst consumers and traders, as well as compliance and enforcement activities with identified non-compliant traders.
A joint investigation task force was established between NSW Fair Trading and the ACCC to investigate trading providers misleading consumers into signing up for courses funded by loans through the Commonwealth Government VET FEE-HELP scheme. As a result of the joint task force, the ACCC commenced four Federal Court actions.
On 30 June 2017, the Federal Court found Unique International College Pty Ltd made misleading representations and engaged in unconscionable conduct relating to the marketing of vocational courses and VET FEE-HELP loans to vulnerable consumers.
Most complained about businesses nationally
Coordinated by Consumer Affairs Victoria, ACL regulators are engaging with the most complained about businesses on a national level and where warranted have been taking coordinated action to improve business compliance and reduce the risk of consumer detriment. ACL regulators engaged with a number of businesses.
Button batteries (product safety)
Button batteries are found in common household products and, if swallowed, can cause significant harm with small children being the most vulnerable. It is estimated twenty children per week present to an Australian Emergency Department relating to the ingesting of a button battery.
The ACCC is coordinating ACL regulators taking part in a button battery national strategy to focus on products in the marketplace that have accessible button batteries. Regulators are conducting surveillance against a voluntary industry code and are taking action to remove high-risk products from the marketplace and ask suppliers to recall products where necessary.
Household cots (product safety)
Household cots are regulated under a mandatory Australian safety standard. The ACCC is coordinating ACL regulators in a project focussing on online suppliers of cheap household cots. Testing against the mandatory standard revealed products failed. Suppliers have been asked to update labelling and for serious failures, to remove products from sale and conduct voluntary recalls.
Toppling furniture (product safety)
The ACCC is coordinating a project to increase awareness among furniture suppliers and consumers about the risks of furniture and televisions toppling when young children climb on them. ACL regulators are conducting marketplace surveillance to promote compliance with the best practice guide published by the National Retail Association, focusing on the supply of anchoring kits with products.
Baby walkers (product safety)
Baby walkers are regulated under a mandatory Australian safety standard. The ACCC is coordinating ACL regulators in a project focussing on suppliers of baby walkers and consumer awareness of safety issues.
‘It’s OK To Walk Away’ (National Indigenous Consumer Strategy)
The project was coordinated through the National Indigenous Consumer Strategy (NICS) to help Indigenous consumers understand and protect themselves from high-pressure sales tactics, including increasing community use of consumer protection tools such as the ‘do not knock’ sticker. At the end of the project, evaluation found that the campaign helped equip the target audience with the information they needed to better deal with high pressure sales, and the compliance work undertaken identified specific trader behaviour that will be investigated further.
Engaging with tribunals
This project aims to proactively engage with state and territory small claims tribunals and provide guidance in relation to the consumer guarantees regime of the ACL.
Fundraising and the ACL
The project aims to monitor the fundraising and not-for-profit sectors for compliance with the ACL, with a view to encouraging compliance and emphasising the application of the ACL to representations made in the sector.
Door-to-door lead generation
This project aims to investigate and, if necessary, take action against parties engaged in 'lead generation' sales practices that may not comply with the unsolicited consumer agreement provisions of the ACL. The most common 'lead generation' sales practice is to engage a third party to attempt to gain an 'invitation' from the consumer to set up a subsequent appointment.
On-line dispute resolution
This project will involve research to determine whether on-line dispute resolution is suitable for ACL regulators.
Training and professional development
This project will explore opportunities for coordinated training, resource-sharing and capacity building across jurisdictions in key service areas.
These new projects build on previous national initiatives on the following issues:
- Fake online testimonials
- Cash back schemes
- Was/Now pricing
- Extended warranties
- Country of origin labelling
- Consumer guarantees
- Unfair contract terms
- Renewable energy and energy saving devices claims
- Indigenous consumer protection
- Group buying websites
- Small business ACL education program
- Travelling conmen national response
- Property spruikers/ rent to buy schemes
- Scam disruption
- Real estate agent services
- Travel and accommodation industry
- Credit card chargebacks
- National Sentinel Pilot Program: Automotive Industry