30 April 2016

Consumer Law Inquiry

The Productivity Commission has been tasked by the Treasurer with an inquiry into the administration of consumer law, for completion by March 2017.

The Commission states that
The Australian Consumer Law (ACL) commenced on 1 January 2011 as a single, harmonised consumer law bringing together the consumer protection provisions of the Trade Practices Act 1974 and previous state and territory fair trading laws. The ACL operates under a 'single-law, multiple regulator' model where the ACL is jointly enforced and administered by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and state and territory consumer agencies. The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) administer similar provisions under the ASIC Act in relation to financial products and services.
A review of the ACL is being undertaken by Consumer Affairs Australia and New Zealand (CAANZ), on behalf of the Legislative and Governance Forum on Consumer Affairs. CAANZ will examine the effectiveness of the provisions of the ACL, the extent to which the national consumer policy framework has met the objectives agreed by COAG and the flexibility of the ACL to respond to new and emerging issues.
Clause 23 of the Intergovernmental Agreement for the Australian Consumer Law provides that a review of the enforcement and administration arrangements supporting the ACL be undertaken within seven years of its implementation. This study satisfies this requirement. 
The study is
 to examine the effectiveness of the 'multiple regulator' model in supporting a single national consumer policy framework and make findings on how this model can be strengthened drawing from the experience of regulators in the period since the ACL commenced in 2011, including the risk-based approach of regulators to enforcement. The study will also review the progress that has been made in addressing issues with the previous framework raised by the Commission in its 2008 'Review of Australia's Consumer Policy Framework', including regulatory complexity, inconsistency, gaps and overlap in enforcement, and unclear delineation of responsibilities between Commonwealth, state and territory governments.
In undertaking the study the Commission should
  • assess the complementary roles played by ACL regulators and the effectiveness of existing mechanisms in improving the coordination, consistency of approach and collaboration between ACL regulators having regard to the Memorandum of Understanding agreed by regulators 
  • examine the roles of specialist safety regulatory regimes  (such as therapeutic goods, food safety, building and construction industry and electricity and natural gas regimes) in protecting consumers, their interaction with ACL regulators and the extent to which the responsibilities of different regulators are clear 
  • consider the implications of changes in the level of resourcing and regulator involvement in the administration of the ACL, including the national product safety law 
  • report on other regulatory models, including models or approaches to consumer protection overseas that may inform improvements to the current model to ensure it remains flexible and responsive in addressing new and emerging issues.