The need for consumer protection; Features of a simple contact; Legal rights and protective legislation for consumers; Organisations that provide assistance for consumers
- Consumer rights
- Being a jerk
- Features of a simple contract
- Consumer guarantees
- Caveat Emptor – let the buyer beware
- Consumer redress
- Organisations that provide consumer assistance
Please note a lot of this is basically the textbook.
This is a CHP (California Highway Patrol) 2008 CVPI slicktop (polar bear variant), commonly found across California, a US state on the West Coast of North America. The California Highway Patrol is a law enforcement agency with jurisdiction all over the State of California. The 2008 CVPI (Crown Victoria Police Interceptor) is a variant of the Crown Victoria (often abbreviated to Crown Vic) that has been modified for police use. It is no longer manufactured but is loved by departments all across the US due to it’s ruggedness, body-on-frame structure and steel engine block. A slicktop is any emergency services car that doesn’t have a lightbar on the roof. Typically this would be replaced with lights behind the rear window. This CVPI also has a ram bar, spotlights, and heavy duty wheels. On the inside, there is probably a Panasonic Toughbook and a partition.
- Safe products - directions for proper use and the product is safe
- Accurate product info - info is accurate and reliable (e.g ingredients on food)
- Full disclosure – all details are mentioned (e.g full price is displayed)
- Consumer guarantees/warranties - if a product is faulty, customers can get a repair/refund/exchange
Unconscionable conduct is any practice by a sellor that isn’t reasonable or ethical (e.g scams, rip-offs). It is illegal under the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Cwth). Examples of unconscionable conduct include:
- Referral selling: a special deal for a customer that supplies contact details of other potential customers
- False and misleading advertising
- Bait and switch: when products are advertised at low prices but when a customer finds out the item is actually unavailable, they are pressured to purchase more expensive items
- Misleading advertising: advert descriptions that are deceptive and convey a false impression of a product
- Unordered or unsolicited groups: victims receive unordered groups through mail and payment is demanded from them*
- Special prizes or offers: being told you have won something when in fact there is a fineprint
- Money scams: victims send money overseas and never get it back. I’m looking at you, Omar Bara.
- Pyramid schemes: you recruit new members and pay a joining fee, and are promised a share of money from any additional member you recruit. It’s actually a cool maths problem
*The item(s) are legally the receiver’s property if it has been either 1 month after writing to the company disclaiming ownership/purchase of said item, or 3 months with no writing.
Contracts are legally enforceable agreements between two or more parties. It outlines details of the agreement and the rights and responsibilities (obligations) of each party.
Contracts can be oral (verbal) or written. Usually, written contracts are for high-stakes agreements (e.g buying a 2008 CVPI)
- Offer - a proposal
- One party (offeror) offers something of value to the other party (offeree) in exchange for another thing of value
- Acceptance - when the offeree accepts!
- Either written or oral (e.g handshake) that clearly communicates acceptance
- Consideration - both parties give up something of value
- E.g money, or the promise to do something
Note that with offers, advertising/businesses displaying something in a store does NOT constitute as offer. For more information, see Pharmaceutical Society of GB v Boots Cash Chemists (Southern) Ltd (1953) EWCA Civ 6.
The Australian Consumer Law (2011) and the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Cwlth) is federal legislation that protects consumers from business misconduct. In NSW, this legislation is administered by:
- Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) (Federal)
- Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) (Federal – Financial)
- NSW Fair Trading (State – NSW)
Feel free to eat a chocolate every time I mention legislation. You’ll be filled with sugar in no time.
Illegal business practices include:
- misleading, deceptive, and false advertising and product info, for example:
- country of origin
- product features
- false claims in regards to goods and services
- unconscionable conduct
- unfair business practices
Legal business practices that can confuse/mislead consumers:
- Fine print - important details in small print so the consumer doesn’t see it/can’t read it)
- Before and after ads - distorted comparison using e.g Photoshop
- Unsubstantiated claims - claims that cannot be proved (e.g “In a survey, 90% people like pineapples” when no survey was conducted)
- Country of origin - ‘Made in Fishtopia’ vs ‘Product of Fishtopia’ vs ‘Packaged in Fishtopia’ vs ‘Processed in Fishtopia’ vs ‘Made in Fishtopia using at least 98% ingredients’ vs ‘Packaged in Fishtopia using imported ingredients’
- Packaging - size/shape of package can give misleading impressions to quantity of contents
This subreddit always has examples of legal business practices that just make you want to scream at the world.
Consumer guarantees are automatic consumer legal rights and remedies as set out in the Competition and Consumer Act 2010.
Goods must be:
- of acceptable quality – fit for purpose, acceptable in appearance, free from defects and safe
- fit for purpose – equipped and suited for it’s specified purpose
- match advertisements, descriptions, samples or demonstrations
- honour and comply with express warranty – voluntary promises made by manufacturers or suppliers about goods
- legally owned by the seller without charges (money owed)
- have spare parts
Services must be:
- fit for purpose
- provided with reasonable skill and care in a reasonable timeframe
Remedies are often in the form of a refund, replacement, or repair. Businesses cannot mislead consumers about their consumer rights, so signs like “no refunds” are illegal.
Consumers have to accept responsibilities for the purchases they make, and they do so at their own risk.
Caveat emptor is a Latin term for, let the buyer beware.
- Consumers can redress (set right) things that are wrong under their consumer rights.
- If consumers have attempted to rdress a problem then they
International consumer protection agencies:
- International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network (ICPEN) - cross-border consumer protection agency
- Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) – enforces the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 and is Australia’s federal consumer watchdog organisation
- Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) - protects consumers in the financial sector (e.g credit, investment, insurance, super, banking) to reduce fraud in the finance industry
Provides information and assistance on consumer affairs, and regulate products to meet standards.
- NSW Fair Trading
- NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal – more below
- ACT Office of Fair Trading
- NT Consumer Affairs
- Qld. Office of Fair Trading
- Consumer and Business Services (South Australia)
- Consumer, Building and Occupational Services (Tasmania)
- Consumer Affairs Victoria
- WA Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety
- CHOICE – Independent non-profit consumer watchdog organisation
- Industry ombudsman (e.g Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman, Financial Services Ombudsman) – mediator in disputes in specific industries
- Media – Programs such as A Current Affair (yes the one that blames violence on video games) and even morning television shows such as Today (yes the one that blamed LSPDFR for police shootings) can investigate consumer complaints
formerly known as the Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal
If a written complaint is lodged then NSW Fair Trading will try and reach a solution by contacting the trader. If a complainant is still not satisfied a claim can be ldoged with the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal which will arbitrate a legally bidning mediation session between the two parties (consumer and trader).