Consumer protection law is important for the efficient functioning of markets – it encourages consumers to shop with confidence, and enables businesses to compete fairly without non-compliant businesses being rewarded for using underhanded or misleading tactics.
Chapters 2 and 3 of the ACL provide consumers with legal protection against different forms of conduct by businesses.
Chapter 2 contains three general prohibitions against:
- misleading conduct
- unconscionable conduct
- the use of unfair contract terms in standard form contracts.
Chapter 3 provides consumers with specific protections that address identified forms of business conduct. These provisions:
- ban specific unfair practices in trade or commerce
- regulate specific consumer transactions
- make it illegal to distribute unsafe goods and related services.
The ACL is administered by the ACL regulators, being the state and territory consumer protection agencies, the ACCC and ASIC. The ACL is enforced through the courts, with the ACL regulators and affected individuals able to bring court actions for breaches of the civil provisions.
The ACL regulators can also refer matters to the various directors of public prosecutions who may prosecute breaches of the criminal provisions.