Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Chair Rod Sims has marked 10 years of the Australian Consumer Law, pointing out the significance of those reforms and the benefit harmonisation has brought in protecting consumers.
Mr Sims was speaking during a webinar at a Monash University National Commercial Law Seminar hosted at the Federal Court in Melbourne to mark the 10th anniversary of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010, which incorporates the Australian Competition Law.
Mr Sims said the Competition and Consumer Act, which came into effect on 1 January 2011, was a significant legal and economic reform that heralded a new era in Australian consumer protection by introducing a single national consumer law and civil penalties.
“The key change was the introduction of civil pecuniary penalties for consumer law contraventions,” he said. “These civil pecuniary penalties transformed the ACCC’s armoury when taking enforcement action in the courts against businesses for alleged contraventions of the ACL.
“This in turn has transformed compliance with the consumer law. For laws to be effective, there must be serious and effective consequences for breaches of these laws.
“The Federal Court has imposed a total of almost $400 million in civil pecuniary penalties in proceedings instituted by the ACCC in the last 10 years.
“The introduction of consumer guarantee rights and an unfair contract terms regime were also highly significant reforms, particularly once the unfair contract terms regimes was extended to small businesses.”