If you woke up with a headache on 1 January , don't despair as the new year didn't necessarily get off to a bad start. The strike of midnight meant your consumer rights have been strengthened, so if something goes wrong with your technology this year you might have less headaches getting help.
The new laws should bring stronger protection for unfair contracts, unfair selling practices and refund provisions. Gone is the old Trade Practices Act, which has protected consumers since 1974 and in its place we welcome the shiny new Competition and Consumer Act 2010.
Now known as the Australian Consumer Law, the new laws harmonise state, territory and federal consumer protections to provide national consumer protection. Disputes will continue to be settled by state and territory consumer protection agencies along with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
Unfair contract protection means that internet, phone, rental and other contracts must strike a balance between the parties rights and obligations and not cause financial detriment of relied upon. If not, the contract may be deemed unfair. Any terms found to be unfair will be void.
The consumer guarantees should also help clarify who chooses the remedy if a fault develops with a product. For example, if a major problem with a TV, digital camera, smartphone or other device cannot be fixed within a reasonable time, you can choose a refund or a replacement good or compensation for any drop in value.
New protections for unfair selling practices require a written agreement that outlines basic information including cooling off periods, termination rights and the total price of the sale and also limit the hours sales people can contact consumers. This may affect some services, such as mobile premium subscriptions entered into via SMS that are often nearly impossible to get out of without junking your phone.
New consumer guarantees stipulate that goods must be of acceptable quality, fit for any disclosed purpose and match any description given to them. It seems that not much has changed in this area so only time will tell if mobile phone manufacturers can continue to void warranty claims on the basis of water damage, for example. Investigator knows this is an ongoing, and unresolved, complaint with many readers.
There is also a national product safety warning system and consumers can report safety issues at the Product Safety site. The online home of the Australian Consumer Law can be found at Consumer Law site and it has information on how to make complaints and your consumer rights.