Commonwealth, State and Territory Consumer Affairs Ministers met on Friday 24 November 2023 with a renewed commitment to collaboration across borders and to strengthen consumer protections.
Ministers attending the meeting, chaired by New South Wales Minister for Better Regulation and Fair Trading, the Hon Anoulack Chanthivong, discussed and agreed on priorities for future work, which include:
- consumer guarantees and supplier indemnification provisions
- protecting consumers and small business from unfair trading practices across the economy
- improved collaboration to combat scams and online fraud
- establishing a designated complaints mechanism within the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission for consumer and small business advocacy groups to raise systemic issues under consumer law
- implementation of the unfair contract terms reforms and Australian Consumer Law penalties harmonisation.
“Ministers are committed to ensuring that consumers will benefit from improvements to protections, at a state, territory and national level, as part of a nationally coordinated approach,” Minister Chanthivong said.
“It is important that we remain focused on progressing reforms to the Australian Consumer Law to strengthen protections for consumers and small business and improve consumer confidence.”
“The agreed priorities for 2024 build on the important enhancements to consumer protections that have been delivered in 2023, such as strengthening Unfair Contract Term Protections, increasing penalties for breaches of the competition and consumer laws, and establishing the National Anti-Scam Centre.”
Ministers heard from the Consumers’ Federation Australia, the peak body for consumer organisations in Australia, about key issues impacting consumers and possible areas for policy and law reform.
Ministers welcomed the impending release of the 2023 Australian Consumer Survey, which contains insights from consumers and businesses into existing consumer issues, including lessons to be learned from the COVID-19 pandemic. Results from the survey will be published on the Australian Consumer Law website (https://consumerlaw.gov.au/) in coming weeks.
Ministers further welcomed work to develop industry codes outlining the responsibilities of the private sector in relation to scams.
Australian Ministers also committed to improving transparency for consumers by supporting the introduction of country-of-origin labelling requirements for seafood in hospitality settings.
Australian Ministers further agreed to allow tobacco legislation currently administered under the Australian Consumer Law to be consolidated under a more streamlined national tobacco control legislation.
Ministers look forward to continuing to work together closely on progressing these issues.
Attendees to the meeting included:
- Commonwealth Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Financial Services, Stephen Jones
- Queensland Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, Yvette D’Ath
- South Australian Minister for Consumer and Business Affairs, Andrea Michaels
- Tasmanian Minister for Workplace Safety and Consumer Affairs, Madeleine Ogilvie
- Victorian Minister for Consumer Affairs, Gabrielle Williams
- Western Australian Minister for Commerce, Sue Ellery.
Senior departmental officials from the Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory were also in attendance.