Con­sumer laws get a big boost, fines go up

Kapi-Mana News - - OPINION -

Re­cent changes to con­sumer laws rep­re­sent some of the most ex­ten­sive re­forms of the past 20 years.

The changes sig­nif­i­cantly in­crease con­sumer pro­tec­tions, while mod­ernising con­sumer laws.

Most sig­nif­i­cantly, the penal­ties un­der the Fair Trad­ing Act have tripled. From June 18, Fair Trad­ing Act penal­ties in­crease from $60,000 for an in­di­vid­ual to $ 200,000 and breaches by com­pa­nies can now at­tract $600,000 fines, up from the pre­vi­ous $200,000 limit.

Un­sub­stan­ti­ated rep­re­sen­ta­tions will be pro­hib­ited. Any claims about prod­ucts, ser­vices or goods will need to be sub­stan­ti­ated. Even if a state­ment is true, you could breach the Fair Trad­ing Act if you have no ba­sis for mak­ing that state­ment.

The changes clar­ify that the Fair Trad­ing Act and Con­sumer Guar­an­tees Act can­not be con­tracted out of by nor­mal con­sumers.

How­ever, these Acts can be con­tracted out of in some busi­ness- to- busi­ness trans­ac­tions, pro­vided it is fair and rea­son­able and cer­tain for­mal­i­ties are fol­lowed.

Sev­eral changes mod­ernise con­sumer pro­tec­tions.

Pro­tec­tions have been ex­tended to in­ter­net and tele­phone sales, in­ter­net auc­tions have in­creased reg­u­la­tions, and businesses sell­ing over the in­ter­net or by auc­tion will now have to de­clare their trader sta­tus.

Un­fair con­tracts have been banned, so from March 18, 2015, if you en­force or in­clude an ‘‘un­fair’’ term in a stan­dard form con­sumer con­tract, you could be found li­able un­der the Act for a fine of up to $200,000 for an in­di­vid­ual or $ 600,000 for a body cor­po­rate.

What do you need to do to com­ply with the Fair Trad­ing Act?

Don’t make any rep­re­sen­ta­tion about your prod­uct or ser­vice un­less you have good grounds for be­liev­ing it to be true.

Don’t make any rep­re­sen­ta­tions with­out some kind of ev­i­dence to back up that rep­re­sen­ta­tion – for ex­am­ple, a pub­licly avail­able Govern­ment re­search re­port.

Rely on cred­i­ble and re­li­able sources to back up your claims and rep­re­sen­ta­tions.

Keep records of all the sources you use to back up your rep­re­sen­ta­tions and records of all the rep­re­sen­ta­tions you make to po­ten­tial pur­chasers.

If you are in trade, now is a good time to re­view your con­tracts, ad­ver­tise­ments and com­pli­ance prac­tices to en­sure you do not breach the law.

H asks about re­plac­ing a fence if the own­ers can­not agree on the type of fence.

There are a va­ri­ety of fence types that can be erected and cer­tain height re­stric­tions in place un­der the Fenc­ing Act.

If the own­ers can­not agree, then ei­ther can serve a fenc­ing no­tice on the other spec­i­fy­ing what they pro­pose is built and the cost.

The other owner has 21 days to file a re­sponse no­tice spec­i­fy­ing what they want. If they do not do so within the 21 days the first owner can com­mence work and the sec­ond owner will be li­able for half the cost and have to ac­cept the style of fence built.

If both own­ers file notices but can­not agree, the mat­ter can be de­cided by the court.

The court will de­ter­mine the style and height of the fence. The owner can then pro­ceed with the work and re­cover half the cost.

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