What is consumer law?
Consumer law refers to the rights that consumers have when purchasing products or services from a business. These consumer protection laws help to ensure that a product or service will work or be what a consumer asks for (known as ‘consumer guarantees). If not, then the consumer is able to ask for a repair, replacement or refund, as these are customer rights. As a lawyer, consumer rights may be a field of law you consider persuing. Consumer law is an important part of conducting business in Australia and the purpose of Australian consumer law is very clear – and this article will explore the area in more detail. If you’d like Australian consumer law explained, read on.
Since 2011, Australia has had a single, national law known as the Australian Consumer Law (ACL). This Australian consumer law includes different protections, such as:
– a national unfair contract terms law covering standard form consumer and small business contracts;
– a national law guaranteeing consumer rights when buying goods and services;
– a national product safety law and enforcement system;
– a national law for unsolicited consumer agreements covering door-to-door sales and telephone sales;
– simple national rules for lay-by agreements; and
– penalties, enforcement powers and consumer redress options*.
What Does a Consumer Lawyer Do?
If a consumer is dissatisfied with a product or service, the next step is usually to make a complaint to the company or business owner. If the response to the complaint is unsatisfactory, the consumer might then choose to take the issue further, which could necessitate the use of a consumer law lawyer. Lawyers working in the field of consumer law can assist consumers to exercise and defend their rights under the consumer law act. Alternatively, Australian consumer lawyers can also defend the rights of companies.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is an independent statutory authority which oversees and promotes competition and fair trade within Australia and operates under the consumer law act. Given its role, the ACCC employs lawyers who work to ensure companies comply with Australian Consumer Law, and criminal proceedings have been brought against many companies who fail to do so.
Lawyers who are interested in working in the field of consumer law can gain work privately, in an organisation such as the ACCC, or advocacy groups such as the Consumer Action Law Centre. In April of each year, the ACCC offers a graduate program. This consumer law training has three 14-week rotations which introduce graduates to a wide range of activities.
With a variety of consumer law courses available, the job prospects for lawyers specialising in consumer law are many, and as the field is constantly changing (as consumer protection laws in Australia change and evolve), it will appeal to those who can easily adapt to change, like to work in a team, and who have an interest in consumer rights in Australia.