Your Consumer Rights (Part 1)

Compared to many other countries, consumers in Australia are quite fortunate and enjoy many protections thanks to what is called “The Australian Consumer Law”.This series will set out some of the most relevant consumer protections in this part 1 and then explore them in further detail in later parts.

Consumers can be thought of just as customers who are purchasing goods or services which are purchased for personal or domestic use. There are also some further inclusions which may be read to include some businesses.
Consumer protection laws are split into two main categories: Goods and Services.
Those categories also benefit from the general protections.

The general protections include:

1. Businesses must not engage in ‘misleading and deceptive’ conduct, or conduct which is likely to have that effect. This might include an advertisement which includes fake testimonials from pretend customers.

2. Businesses must not engage in ‘unconscionable conduct’. This means doing things which are not in good faith, or taking advantage of people (when they are under the influence of alcohol or of limited capacity for example)

3. Businesses must not include ‘unfair contract terms’. These are terms that cause a significant imbalance in rights and obligations, are not reasonably necessary or could cause detriment to a person if relied upon. This might include terms in a phone contract which say a carrier wont provide compensation when their services don’t work.

Many people will sign a consumer contract multiple times in their life. It might be for a mobile phone, electricity service or a new refrigerator. Make sure to keep an eye out for terms in the contract which seem a little bit suspicious and make sure to ask the business to explain it if you don’t understand. If you still have concerns, maybe the product isn’t for you.

And always remember: If a business asks you to sign a consumer contract which says that it limits or excludes your rights, you shouldn’t sign it, even though those clauses are void – there might be other traps in there too!
Good luck with your next purchase and know that even if something does go wrong, you are protected!