Thursday, 23 August 2018
Australian Consumer Law
That the Senate:
(a) notes that:
(i) during the 2017-18 financial year, over 4 million items were recalled in Australia due to safety concerns, including Takata airbags, Infinity cabling, Safetech pool gate latches and Samsung washing machines,
(ii) according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, each day at least 10 people require medical attention as a result of injuries received by using unsafe products, and
(iii) earlier this year, the Federal Court found that the Australian distributor for Thermomix failed to notify consumers of safety issues with the TM31 model – the distributor continued to sell $16 million worth of appliances in the two months between becoming aware of the safety faults and issuing a recall;
(b) acknowledges that, unlike the United Kingdom, the European Union, Canada, Malaysia and Brazil, the Australian Consumer Law does not prohibit the sale of unsafe products;
(c) further notes that:
(i) a General Safety Provision (GSP) could be included in the Australian Consumer Law, which would penalise unconscionable retailers who seek to profit from the sale of unsafe products,
(ii) the introduction of a GSP was recommended by the comprehensive Australian Consumer Law Review in 2017,
(iii) the Communique from the Legislative and Governance Forum on Consumer Affairs (LGFCA), on 31 August 2017, noted that further consultation on the inclusion of a GSP would occur prior to a decision being made at the 2018 meeting of the LGCFA,
(iv) consultation has not occurred, and
(v) the LGFCA will meet on 31 August 2018 to consider the best and most consistent protection for Australian and New Zealand consumers; and
(d) calls on the Federal Government to protect consumers, and act on the recommendations of the Australian Consumer Law Review to introduce a GSP.
In August 2017 consumer affairs ministers supported a regulatory impact assessment of a general safety provision for the Australian Consumer Law. The government has held initial consultations with stakeholders and is continuing work to prepare a regulatory impact assessment for public consultation. The government is considering the best way forward and will consult on any potential changes as part of this process. On 31 August 2018 the Commonwealth will meet with state and territory consumer affairs ministers to consider this ongoing work on options to strengthen the product safety framework, including through a general safety provision.
Labor understands that currently regulators can only make safety interventions by banning products after they are already in the market, putting Australian consumers at risk. Therefore Labor supports the principle of a proactive product safety regime outlined in this motion as recommended by the Australian Consumer Law Review2017 handed down in April last year. It is disappointing to note that this report has sat with the government since then and that they have again failed to act. I also note that there is currently no Assistant Treasurer who would be responsible for this, because they are so concerned with their own Liberal Party internal leadership challenges.