The Australian Consumer Law (ACL) is a single, national law covering consumer protection and fair trading which applies in the same way nationally and in each State and Territory. The ACL commenced operation from 1 January 2011 and includes unfair contract terms introduced on 1 July 2010.

For the first time, Australian consumers have the same protections and expectations about business conduct wherever they are in Australia. Similarly, businesses have the same obligations and responsibilities wherever they operate in Australia.

The Productivity Commission (PC) estimated that this reform could provide benefits to the Australian community of between $1.5 billion and $4.5 billion a year.

The ACL:

  • replaces a wide range of existing national and State and Territory consumer laws and clarifies understanding of the law for both Australian consumers and businesses;
  • is a schedule to the Competition and Consumer Act 2010, which is the new name of the Trade Practices Act 1974 (TPA);
  • is applied as a law of the Commonwealth. Each State and Territory will also apply the ACL as a law of its respective jurisdiction. This means that the same provisions apply across Australia;
  • is enforced by all Australian courts and tribunals, including the courts and tribunals of the States and Territories; and
  • is administered by the ACCC and each State and Territory’s consumer law agency.

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission Act 2001 (ASIC Act) continues to apply, separately, to financial products and services, with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) as the national regulator. This reflects the current subject matter referral by the States and Territories set out in the Corporations Agreement 2002 and administered by the Ministerial Council for Corporations (MINCO).

Where appropriate, the consumer protection provisions of the ASIC Act have been amended to maintain consistency with the ACL. Relevant amendments to the ASIC Act are included in Schedule 3 of the second ACL Act.

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