Advertising and selling guide

Who is this guide for?

The ACCC has produced this guide to help businesses of all sizes understand their rights and obligations under the ACL. This guide is for businesses that supply products or services—including suppliers, manufacturers, importers and service providers. This guide is also designed to help people who advise businesses, including accountants, lawyers and marketing professionals.

Related information: Consumers' rights & obligations
Related information: Anti-competitive behaviour
Related publication: The Australian Consumer Law: A guide to provisions.

Agents

Businesses often engage advertising agencies, call centres or sales representatives to assist them in selling their goods or services. When a business uses an agent, it will generally be responsible for the agent’s conduct. To avoid inadvertently breaching the ACL, a business should take care to supervise the activities of its agents.

Advertisers and the media

Advertising and media operators—newspapers, television, radio and online—must take particular care in relation to the products and services they advertise for their clients. They should know their clients’ business and be aware of the requirements under the ACL to minimise the risk of breaching the law.

If media operators are only the vehicle for someone else’s misleading message, they may not be liable for breaches of the ACL. But if a media outlet actually adopts or endorses the misleading message, it may also be held responsible.

Real case study: A media firm was approached by an investment company that claimed to have a successful investment model to share with the public. The media firm decided to air the story to promote the investment model and to encourage viewers to invest. The media company made a number of claims on its program about the investment model and its founders which turned out to be false.

Both the marketing company and the investment company were found to have breached the Trade Practices Act 1974 (now provisions of the ACL).

Case law: High Court of Australia - [2009] HCA 19
Media release: High Court explains limit of the 'Publisher's Defence'

Are there any exclusions?

The ACL does not apply to financial products and services. However, aspects of the ACL are reflected in the Australian Securities and Investments Commission Act 2001, to protect consumers of financial goods and services. You should direct complaints and enquiries about financial products or services to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission.