The Ministerial Council on Consumer Affairs (MCCA), comprising Ministers responsible for fair trading and consumer protection laws, has released a draft Distance Selling Code of Practice for public comment.

A MCCA working party of consumer, industry and government representatives developed the draft Code to set minimum standards of behaviour for distance sellers, and provide protection for consumers from unwanted mail and telephone marketing. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is the chair of this working party.

The Distance Selling Code is proposed to be implemented as a voluntary industry code. The Code aims to:

  • ensure that rights of privacy (and disclosure) are protected;
  • improve the market for consumers and sellers;
  • discourage fraudulent and unacceptable conduct;
  • ensure that fair trading practices are followed; and
  • ensure that there are adequate redress mechanisms applying to distance selling;
    Distance selling, where consumers buy goods or services without visiting a trading premises or meeting the seller, includes mail order, telemarketing, infomercials, and television and Internet advertisements.

In Australia, distance selling has become increasingly popular with both consumers and sellers as a result of greater access to distance marketing mechanisms and improved technology.

The draft Code recognises the need to protect the development potential of distance selling and the ultimate benefits to consumers by discouraging undesirable marketing and selling practices.

The Australian Direct Marketing Association (ADMA) has been heavily involved in the development of the draft Code.