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Australian consumer law harmonisation welcomed

30 May, 2008
Australian consumer law harmonisation welcomed

Ministers at the Australasian Ministerial Council on Consumer Affairs (MCCA) meeting have agreed to significant reform of product safety and consumer policy in Australia and this has been welcomed by New Zealand's Consumer Affairs Minister, Judith Tizard.

"At the meeting Ministers agreed to significant reform of product safety regulatory arrangements and to develop a new national approach to consumer policy within Australia," said Judith Tizard who chaired the meeting on 23 May in Auckland.

"This will address overlaps and inconsistencies between Australian States and Territories in their current product safety and consumer policies and laws. This is a major step for Australia. I welcome these decisions and the potential it brings for enhanced Trans-Tasman product safety and consumer law in the future,” she said.

Ministers said that these reforms would help overcome the inefficiencies that occur because of division of responsibilities between the various Australian governments. They said this will help deliver better outcomes for consumers, lower costs for businesses and more speedily tackle practices that harm consumers.

“The consumer protection provisions of Australia’s Trade Practices Act are very similar to New Zealand’s Fair Trading Act,” said Judith Tizard.

“We will be closely monitoring any amendments to Australian legislation with a view to harmonising our law with any new provisions.”

New Zealand has been reviewing improvements to the enforcement provisions of the Fair Trading Act.

“We have been looking at provisions to address unfair contracts and banning orders with respect to recidivist offenders under the Fair Trading Act, similar to those used in Australia.”

As the New Zealand and Australian economies are very close, through the Closer Economic Relationship (CER), it is important that our product safety and consumer policy are consistent.

“This harmonisation will make it easier for firms in both countries to do business and also helps lower business and compliance costs. New Zealand businesses will not have to deal with state-specific consumer laws, making it easier from them to do business in Australia.

“I am looking forward to working with my colleagues on the Ministerial Council on Consumer Affairs to further progress the issues we discussed,” said Judith Tizard.

MCCA comprises Australian Commonwealth, State, Territory and New Zealand Ministers responsible for fair trading, consumer protection laws, trade measurement and credit laws.

MCCA's objective is to provide the best protection for Australian consumers through its consideration of consumer affairs and fair trading issues of national significance and to development consistent approaches to those issues where possible.

It also works to facilitate and encourage co-operation and consultation on consumer policy between Australia and New Zealand.

Link to MCCA Communiqué


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