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Sales practices
A guide for businesses and legal practitioners


This guide was developed by:

��� Australian Capital Territory Office of Regulatory Services

��� Australian Competition and Consumer Commission

��� Australian Securities and Investments Commission

��� Consumer Affairs and Fair Trading Tasmania

��� Consumer Affairs Victoria

��� New South Wales Fair Trading

��� Northern Territory Consumer Affairs

��� Office of Consumer and Business Affairs South Australia

��� Queensland Office of Fair Trading

��� Western Australia Department of Commerce, Consumer Protection

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright
� Commonwealth of Australia 2010

This work is copyright. You may download, display, print and reproduce this material in unaltered form only (retaining this notice) for your personal, non-commercial use or use within your organisation. Apart from any use as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, all other rights are reserved.

Requests and inquiries concerning reproduction and rights should be posted at the Commonwealth Copyright Administration website at ag.gov.au/cca or addressed to:

Commonwealth Copyright Administration
Attorney-General�s Department
3-5 National Circuit
Barton ACT 2600
ISBN 978-0-642-74656-6


Contents

�����

����� Introduction������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 4

1.�� Unsolicited supplies������������������������������������������������������������������������������ 6

��� What are unsolicited supplies?������������������������������������������������������������ 6

��� Requesting payment for unsolicited goods or services��������������������������� 6

��� Must someone who receives unsolicited goods or services pay?������������ 7

��� Requesting payment for unauthorised entries or advertisements������������� 7

��� Unsolicited credit or debit cards���������������������������������������������������������� 8

��� Penalties������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 8

2.�� Unsolicited consumer agreements�������������������������������������������������������� 9

��� What is an unsolicited consumer agreement?��������������������������������������� 9

��� Shopping centre kiosks and stalls����������������������������������������������������� 10

��� Fundraising�������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 10

��� Permitted hours for contacting consumers������������������������������������������ 10

��� Suppliers� obligations when calling on consumers������������������������������� 11

��� Requirements for face-to-face and telemarketing approaches���������������� 11

��� When unsolicited consumer agreement laws do not apply�������������������� 15

��� Supplier responsibility for failing to comply � unsolicited agreements���� 15

��� Penalties����������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 15

3.�� Pyramid schemes�������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 16

��� What is a pyramid scheme?�������������������������������������������������������������� 16

��� Marketing scheme or pyramid scheme?��������������������������������������������� 16

��� Penalties����������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 17

4.�� Pricing������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 18

��� Multiple pricing��������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 18

��� Penalties � displayed price��������������������������������������������������������������� 18

��� Component pricing��������������������������������������������������������������������������� 19

��� Penalties � component pricing����������������������������������������������������������� 19

5.�� Lay-by agreements������������������������������������������������������������������������������ 20

��� What is a lay-by agreement?������������������������������������������������������������� 20

��� Requirements for lay-by agreements�������������������������������������������������� 20

��� When a consumer cancels a lay-by agreement����������������������������������� 20

��� Termination of lay-by agreements by suppliers������������������������������������ 21

��� Penalties����������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 21

6.�� Referral selling������������������������������������������������������������������������������������ 22

��� What is referral selling?�������������������������������������������������������������������� 22

��� Penalties����������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 22

7.�� Harassment and coercion�������������������������������������������������������������������� 23

��� What is harassment and coercion?���������������������������������������������������� 23

��� Penalties����������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 23

8.�� �Proof of transaction� and itemised bills���������������������������������������������� 24

��� What is proof of transaction?������������������������������������������������������������� 24

��� Supplier must provide proof of transaction������������������������������������������� 24

��� Itemised bills for services������������������������������������������������������������������ 24

��� Penalties����������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 24

9.�� Warranties, refunds, repairs � �consumer guarantees������������������������� 25

����� Glossary and abbreviations����������������������������������������������������������������� 26

����� Contacts���������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 28


Introduction

 

This is one of six guides to the Australian Consumer Law (ACL), developed by Australia�s consumer protection agencies to help businesses understand their responsibilities under the law.

These guides:

>��� explain the law in simple language but are no substitute for the legislation

>��� give general information and examples � not legal advice or a definitive list of situations where the law applies.

About this guide

This guide will help businesses and legal practitioners understand the sales practices requirements of the ACL. It covers:

>��� unsolicited supplies

>��� unsolicited consumer agreements

>��� pyramid schemes

>��� pricing

>��� lay-by agreements

>��� referral selling

>��� harassment and coercion

>��� proof of transaction and itemised bills.

About the other guides

The other guides in this series cover:

>��� consumer guarantees
explains supplier, manufacturer and importer responsibilities when there is a problem with goods and services; refunds, replacements, repairs and other remedies

>��� product safety
covers safety standards, recalls, bans, safety warning notices and mandatory reporting requirements

>��� unfair business practices
covers misleading or deceptive conduct, unconscionable conduct, country of origin, false and misleading representations, information standards

>��� unfair contract terms
outlines what an unfair term is and which contracts are affected by the law

>��� compliance and enforcement
outlines how consumer protection agencies will enforce the law.

The Australian Treasury also publishes information about the ACL � see The Australian Consumer Law � a guide to provisions, available from the Australian Treasury website at treasury.gov.au or the Australian Consumer Law website at consumerlaw.gov.au.

 


About the Australian Consumer Law

The ACL aims to protect consumers and ensure fair trading in Australia.

It is a national, state and territory law from 1 January 2011 and includes unfair contract terms legislation introduced on 1 July 2010.

Under the ACL, consumers have the same protections, and businesses have the same obligations and responsibilities, across Australia.

Australian courts and tribunals (including those of the states and territories) can enforce the ACL.
The regulators of this law include:

>��� the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC)

>��� the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC)

>��� each state and territory consumer protection agency.

The ACL replaces previous Commonwealth, state and territory consumer protection legislation. It is contained in a schedule to the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (CCA).

Aspects of the ACL are reflected in the Australian Securities and Investments Commission Act 2001 (Cth) (ASIC Act), to protect consumers of financial products and services.


01. Unsolicited supplies

 

Summary

It is unlawful to:

>��� request payment for unsolicited goods or services

>��� request payment for unauthorised entries or advertisements

>��� send unsolicited credit cards or debit cards.

A business or person must not issue an invoice that states an amount to be paid for unsolicited goods or services, unless:

>��� they reasonably believe they have a right to be paid, or

>��� the invoice contains the warning required by law: This is not a bill. You are not required to pay any money. This warning must be the most prominent text in the document.

The maximum civil and criminal penalties for requesting such payment or failing to include the warning notice on an invoice are:

>��� $1.1 million for a body corporate, and

>��� $220,000 for an individual.

ACL reference: sections 39-43, 161-163

What are unsolicited supplies?

�Unsolicited supplies� are goods or services supplied to someone who has not agreed to buy or receive them.

Unless a business or person reasonably believes that they have the right to do so, it is unlawful to:

>��� request payment for unsolicited goods or services

>��� request payment for unauthorised entries or advertisements

It is also unlawful to send unsolicited credit cards or debit cards.

For example, it is:

>��� lawful to send a free product sample to someone, when there is no expectation they will pay for the goods

>��� unlawful to demand payment for books, magazines or DVDs posted to someone who did not request the items

>��� unlawful to bill a business for an advertisement about its services, if that business did not authorise its publication.

Requesting payment for unsolicited goods or services

A business or person does not have a right to be paid just because they have sent goods or provided services
to someone.

A business or person must not issue an invoice that states an amount to be paid for unsolicited goods or services, unless:

>��� they reasonably believe they have a right to be paid, or

>��� the invoice contains the warning required by the ACL Regulations: �This is not a bill. You are not required to
pay any money�.

This warning must be the most prominent text in the document.

In a dispute, the business or person demanding payment must prove they have a legitimate right to it.


Must someone who receives unsolicited goods or services pay?

Someone who receives unsolicited goods or services does not have to pay for those goods or services. They also do not have to pay for any loss or damage to the goods, or due to supply of the service.

However, they may have to pay compensation if they wilfully and unlawfully damage unsolicited goods within three months of receiving them. This three-month period is called the recovery period. The supplier can recover the goods within this time.

The recovery period reduces to one month when the recipient gives written notice to the supplier.
This notice must state:

>��� the recipient�s name and address

>��� that the goods are unsolicited and the recipient does not want them, and

>��� where the supplier should collect the items.

The recipient can keep unsolicited goods not collected within the recovery period, without any obligation to pay. The supplier cannot take action to recover the uncollected goods.

However, the recipient cannot:

>��� keep goods they knew were not intended for them � for instance, if the package was clearly addressed
to another person

>��� unreasonably refuse to allow the supplier to collect the goods during the recovery period.

For example:

>��� A consumer arranges for a mechanic to replace the muffler on her car. When she returns, the mechanic says he also replaced the tyres and brake pads, which cost an extra $1200. This work was unsolicited; she does not have to pay for any work other than replacing the muffler. This would not be the case if the mechanic asked her permission before replacing the tyres and brake pads, and she agreed.

>��� A tradesperson is hired to replace rotting timber beams supporting a pergola. The tradesperson notices the shed door is also rotting, so replaces it and adds $250 to the bill. Replacing the shed door was outside the scope of their agreement and unsolicited. The consumer does not have to pay the extra $250.

>��� A consumer takes his laptop to a repairer to have the hard drive replaced. When he returns, the repairer says he also repaired the CD drive and added extra memory capacity. He added $150 to the repair bill for this extra work, which was unsolicited. The consumer does not have to pay the $150.

>��� A packet of Christmas cards arrives in the mailbox of a consumer, who has not asked for them. The envelope is addressed to her and includes a letter that says she can either pay for them or return the packet by post. She does not have to pay for the cards. She also does not have to return them � unless the sender asks for them back within three months of the date she received the packet.

Requesting payment for unauthorised entries or advertisements

It is unlawful to ask for payment for an entry or advertisement relating to a person or their profession, business, trade or occupation, that was not first authorised by the person or business concerned.

An advertisement or entry is authorised when the person, business or their nominee has signed a document that:

>��� authorises the entry or advertisement

>��� specifies the details of the entry or advertisement, the name and address of the person publishing the entry, and the charges that will apply, and

>��� was provided before payment was requested.

It is possible to send an invoice for an unauthorised entry or advertisement, if it contains the warning statement required by the ACL Regulations: �This is not a bill. You are not required to pay any money�.

This warning must be the most prominent text in the document.

In a dispute, the business or person demanding payment must prove it was reasonable to believe the entry or advertisement was authorised.


For example:

Three Queensland men phoned businesses and pressured them to pay for advertising they had not ordered. These scammers led businesses to believe the advertisements would run in publications supporting worthy causes in the community, but no proceeds went to assist the community or to community-based activities. Businesses were threatened with legal action if they did not pay, and consequently many businesses did pay.

In March 2007, the Federal Court of Australia sentenced the men, who had ignored a court order to stop running an invoice scam, to six months� imprisonment suspended for two years, banned them for life from the advertising industry, and ordered that they pay costs of $180,000. The Federal Court order prevents the scammers from engaging in similar operations anywhere in Australia.

Legal reference: Bauer v Power Pacific International Media Pty Ltd [2007] FCA 349

Unsolicited credit or debit cards

Generally, an issuer must not send a credit or debit card without written authority from the recipient.

An item is a credit card if intended to obtain cash, goods or services on credit. For example, store-branded credit cards are credit cards.

An item is a debit card if intended to access an account held by the consumer for the purpose of withdrawing or depositing cash or obtaining goods or services.

Issuers must not send anything that could be used as a credit or debit card to someone unless:

>��� the recipient requested, in writing, the card from the issuer, or

>��� it is a replacement, renewal or substitution for a card previously sent to the person and used for the same purpose.

An issuer must not enable a credit card to also be used as debit card, or vice versa, unless the recipient has requested this in writing.

More information about unsolicited credit and debit cards is available in Regulatory Guide 201 by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission at asic.gov.au.

Penalties

The maximum civil and criminal penalties for requesting payment for unsolicited goods or unauthorised advertisements, for failing to include the required warning notice on an invoice, and for sending an unsolicited debit or credit card are:

>��� $1.1 million for a body corporate, and

>��� $220,000 for an individual.


02. Unsolicited consumer agreements

 

Summary

Salespeople who make unsolicited contact with consumers in order to sell them goods or services must comply with:

>��� limited hours for contact with consumers

>��� disclosure requirements when making an agreement

>��� criteria for the sales agreement, including that it must be in writing

>��� restrictions on supply and requesting payment during the cooling-off period.

Consumers have 10 business days to change their mind and cancel the contract (cool off). They can also cancel the contract within three or six months if the supplier has not met certain obligations.

The Corporations Act 2001 prohibits unsolicited hawking of securities, certain financial products and managed investment products. More information is available from the Australian Securities and Investments Commission at asic.gov.au.

Failing to comply with requirements for unsolicited consumer agreements can lead to maximum civil and criminal penalties of $50,000 for a body corporate and $10,000 for an individual.

ACL reference: sections 69-95, 170-187

What is an unsolicited consumer agreement?

An agreement for the supply of goods or services is unsolicited when:

>��� a supplier, their salesperson or dealer approaches or telephones a consumer without invitation from that consumer

>��� it results from negotiations by telephone or at a location other than the supplier�s premises, and

>��� the total value of the goods or services is more than $100, or the value was not established when the
agreement was made.

For example, unsolicited consumer agreements may result from:

>��� door-knocking households to sell goods or services, or to ask consumers to switch to a different service provider

>��� telephoning consumers to sell goods or services

>��� approaching consumers in the common area of a shopping centre to sell goods or services.

A sale will be an unsolicited consumer agreement if it is negotiated under the following circumstances:

>��� the consumer gave his or her contact details to a supplier for one purpose (for example, a competition entry), and the supplier contacts the consumer for another purpose, or

>��� the consumer returns a missed call from a supplier or responds to any unsuccessful attempt by the supplier to contact the consumer.

A consumer who has invited a supplier to give a quote for certain goods or services � for example, measuring for blinds � is not soliciting the supplier to actually sell them those goods or services. If the supplier does negotiate a sale, this would be an unsolicited consumer agreement.


For example:

>��� A consumer enters a competition sponsored by a supplier. It is a condition of entry that the consumer agrees to be contacted by the supplier with information about the product. If the supplier contacts the consumer about anything other than the competition or the product, and negotiates a sale, that sale agreement is considered �unsolicited�.

>��� A supplier leaves a quote for the consumer to consider. The consumer approaches the supplier to accept the quote or negotiate different terms, which leads to an agreement. This is not an unsolicited consumer agreement, because the consumer initiated the contact.

>��� The above agreement would be unsolicited if the supplier had negotiated it with the consumer when they provided
the quote.

In a dispute, it is up to the supplier to prove that the consumer solicited the agreement.

Shopping centre kiosks and stalls

A sale made at a kiosk or stall in the public area of a shopping centre is unlikely to be an �unsolicited consumer agreement� when:

>��� the kiosk or stall is the operator�s business or trade premises, and

>��� the salesperson remains within the kiosk or stall.

If the salesperson were to approach or intercept a consumer and negotiate a sale outside the kiosk or stall, this would be an unsolicited consumer agreement.

A kiosk or stall that is partly or fully enclosed, and subject to an ongoing lease that marks out the area allocated to the kiosk or stall operator, is more likely to be seen as business or trade premises.

A sale made at an unenclosed trestle table or temporary stand is likely to be an unsolicited consumer agreement.

Fundraising

An unsolicited consumer agreement must involve a supply in trade or commerce of goods or services to a consumer. This means donations to charity are not unsolicited consumer agreements � including donations received by a third party or contractor on the charity�s behalf.

However, if a contractor or someone else supplies goods or services worth $100 or more on behalf of a charity to a donor in return for the donation, this will be an unsolicited consumer agreement.

Permitted hours for contacting consumers

Permitted hours for telemarketing are regulated under the Do Not Call Register Act 2006 and associated telemarketing standards. The standards do not allow telephone and fax marketing to consumers:

>��� on a Sunday or a public holiday

>��� before 9am or after 8pm on a weekday

>��� before 9am or after 5pm on a Saturday.

Other forms of contact, such as door-knocking, are regulated by the ACL. Under this law, a salesperson must not call on a consumer to negotiate a sale:

>��� on Sunday or a public holiday

>��� before 9am or after 6pm on a weekday

>��� before 9am or after 5pm on a Saturday.

Some states and territories have different hours � contact the relevant consumer protection agency for more information (see page 30 for agency contract details).

A salesperson can visit at any time if an appointment was made beforehand with the consumer�s consent. This appointment must be arranged by telephone or in writing � it cannot be made in person.


Suppliers� obligations when calling on consumers

Suppliers who call on a consumer, other than by telephone, must:

>��� explain up-front the purpose of the visit and produce identification

>��� inform the consumer that they can ask the supplier to leave

>��� leave the premises immediately if the consumer asks them to do so

>��� explain to consumers their right to terminate the agreement within 10 business days (cooling-off rights), and

>��� provide their contact details in the agreement.

Similar obligations apply when contacting consumers by telephone � see �Requirements for face-to-face and telemarketing approaches� on p13.

It is unlawful to coerce or unduly harass someone about the supply of, or payment for, goods or services.
For more information, see Harassment and coercion on page 25.

Disclose purpose and show identification

Before giving a sales pitch, a salesperson or dealer must clearly inform the consumer of the purpose of the visit and provide identification.

The identification must include information as prescribed in the ACL Regulations, including the name of
the salesperson and the organisation they represent.

All businesses must comply with the ACL regulations from 1 July 2011.

Transitional arrangements are in place to give businesses time to comply with the ACL. Until 30 June 2011, a salesperson or dealer must comply with the identification requirements of either:

>��� the ACL Regulations, or

>��� the relevant state or territory laws that applied prior to the ACL. If so, consumer protection agencies will consider the salesperson or dealer has complied with the ACL.

For more information, contact the relevant state or territory consumer protection agency (see page 30 for agency contact details).

Cease to negotiate

A salesperson must explain that they are required to leave the consumer�s premises upon the consumer�s request.

When a salesperson is told to leave, they must not contact the consumer on behalf of the same supplier again for at least 30 days. However, a salesperson can visit the same consumer about the sale of goods or services on behalf of a different supplier.

Contact details

An agreement signed by a salesperson on the supplier�s behalf must state:

>��� that the salesperson is acting on the supplier�s behalf

>��� the salesperson�s full name, business or residential address (not a post box), and email address (if they have one).

Requirements for face-to-face and telemarketing approaches

When a salesperson negotiates an unsolicited consumer agreement:

>��� the salesperson must inform the consumer of their termination rights before the agreement is made

>��� the consumer must be given a written copy of the agreement

>��� the written agreement must meet specific criteria (see The sales contract, on this page)

>��� both parties must sign the agreement and any amendments.


Information about the consumer�s termination rights must be given to them in writing and must be:

>��� attached to the agreement

>��� transparent � expressed in plain language, legible and clear, and

>��� the most prominent text in the document, other than the text setting out the dealer�s or supplier�s name or logo.

For an unsolicited consumer agreement, a supplier must not provide any goods or services, or accept any payment, during the cooling-off period � unless supplying electricity or gas to premises not already connected to such services.

The sales contract

Consumers must be given a copy of an unsolicited consumer agreement.

If negotiated in person, the copy must be given to the consumer immediately after it is signed.

If negotiated by telephone, the copy must be given to the consumer:

>��� in person, by post, or electronically (if the consumer agrees)

>��� within five business days of the agreement (or longer if the consumer agrees).

The document must be:

>��� transparent � expressed in plain language, legible and clear, and

>��� printed � although any changes to the agreement may be handwritten (and signed by both parties).

The document must clearly state:

>��� the consumer�s cooling-off and termination rights

>��� the full terms of the agreement

>��� the total price payable, or how this will be calculated

>��� any postal or delivery charges

>��� the supplier�s:

����� � name

����� � business address (not a post box number)

����� � Australian Business Number (ABN) or Australian Company Number (ACN)

����� � fax number and email address, if they have these.

The front page of the document must include the following text:

>��� �Important Notice to the Consumer�

>��� �You have a right to cancel this agreement within 10 business days from and including the day after you signed or received this agreement�

>��� �Details about your additional rights to cancel this agreement are set out in the information attached to
this agreement�.

The front page must also be signed by the consumer and include the date it was signed.

The document must also be accompanied by a notice that the consumer can use to terminate the contract.
This notice is available from consumerlaw.gov.au.

Attempts to limit termination rights are unlawful

It is unlawful to exclude, limit, modify or restrict:

>��� a right of the consumer to terminate the agreement

>��� the effect or operation of the ACL as it relates to unsolicited consumer agreements.

Any attempts to do so in an agreement have no effect (ACL section 89).


Waivers not permitted

A consumer cannot waive any rights under the ACL that relate to unsolicited consumer agreements (ACL section 90).

It is unlawful for any supplier to persuade, or attempt to persuade, a consumer to do so.

Cooling off and termination requirements

Consumers who agree to unsolicited agreements have 10 business days to reconsider, during which they can cancel the agreement without penalty. This is called the �cooling-off� period (ACL sections 76 and 82).

For agreements negotiated by telephone, the cooling-off period begins on the first business day after the consumer receives the agreement document.

For other agreements, the cooling-off period begins on the first business day after the agreement was made.

A consumer may also terminate an agreement up to three months after it was made (or received, for agreements negotiated by telephone) if the supplier:

>��� visited outside permitted selling hours

>��� did not disclose the purpose of the visit

>��� did not produce identification, or

>��� did not leave the premises upon request.

The termination period is extended to six months if a salesperson:

>��� did not provide information about cooling-off rights

>��� breached requirements for unsolicited consumer agreements (such as failing to provide a written copy or not including required information)

>��� supplied goods or services during the 10 business days of the cooling-off period, or

>��� accepted or requested payment during the cooling-off period.

A consumer may terminate an agreement verbally or in writing. The termination date is when the consumer gives or sends the notice.

When a consumer �cools off� or terminates

An agreement terminated by a consumer at any time is void � effectively cancelled, or treated as if it never existed (ACL sections 83, 84, 85, 87 and 88).

If the consumer terminates an unsolicited consumer agreement, the agreement is void:

>��� whether or not the supplier receives written notice of termination

>��� even if the goods or services supplied have been wholly or partly consumed or used.

When a consumer terminates an unsolicited consumer agreement, any related contract or agreement is also void.
This includes associated credit or finance agreements.

For goods bought on credit or finance, it is the supplier�s responsibility to contact the credit provider and arrange for cancellation. For more information, contact the Australian Securities and Investments Commission � asic.gov.au.

For example:

A consumer approached by a door-to-door trader agrees to buy a washing machine for $900. The consumer has 10 business days to change their mind.

As part of this sale, there is an associated service agreement (an agreement to service the washing machine).

If the consumer cools off on the $900 contract to buy the washing machine, the related service contract is also cancelled.

A supplier must promptly return or refund any money paid under an agreement or related contract when
a consumer cools off.


If the consumer has terminated the unsolicited consumer agreement, the supplier cannot:

>��� take action against the consumer to recover any money allegedly payable under the agreement
or any related contract

>��� place or threaten to place the consumer�s name on a list of defaulters or debtors.

A consumer who terminates an agreement must, within a reasonable time, return any goods that have not been consumed or tell the supplier where to collect them.

If a consumer has not taken reasonable care of the goods, the supplier can seek compensation for the damage to the goods or the drop in value. The consumer does not have to pay compensation for normal use of the goods or circumstances beyond the consumer�s control.

For example:

A consumer buys an electric mixer from a door-to-door trader. The trader does not tell her about the cooling-off period. Four months later, the consumer realises she had the right to cool off. She decides that she would not have followed through with the purchase had she known she could cool off. She writes to the supplier, requests a full refund and asks the supplier to collect the appliance. She has prepared several desserts during the four months, so the mixer blades do not look pristine. The supplier is not entitled to compensation for the blades, as this was normal use of the mixer.

If a supplier does not collect the goods within 30 days after a contract was terminated, and the consumer told the supplier where to collect the goods, the goods become the consumer�s property.

If an agreement is terminated after the cooling-off period, and a service has been provided to the consumer in that time, the consumer may have to pay for the service.

For example:

>��� A telemarketer sells a carpet cleaning package to a consumer. The package includes a clean every three months for a special price. The salesperson fails to tell the consumer about his cooling-off rights. After the first clean, the consumer realises the salesperson did not provide information about his rights and decides to end the agreement. The consumer must pay for the carpet cleaning already carried out, but is released from the contract and any obligation for the remaining two cleans.

Transitional arrangements for agreements and agreement documents

Transitional arrangements are in place to give businesses time to comply with the ACL.

Before 1 July 2011, businesses must comply with either the ACL Regulations or the relevant state or territory laws that applied prior to the ACL, when it comes to:

>��� information to be given to the consumer about termination periods

>��� information that is to appear on the front page of an agreement

>��� the front page of an agreement to be signed and dated by the consumer, and

>��� use of an approved form to terminate agreements.

From 1 July 2011, businesses must comply with the ACL. For more information, contact the relevant
state or territory consumer protection agency (see page 30 for agency contact details).

Supplying goods or services during the cooling-off period

During the cooling-off period, a supplier must not:

>��� supply any goods or services relating to the agreement

>��� accept or require any form of payment (ACL section 86).

 

However, during the cooling-off period an energy supplier can provide electricity or gas to premises not already connected to such services, or where there is already a connection but no supply.

Previous state and territory laws did not allow payment for services during the cooling-off period, and some also did not allow supply of goods during this time.

To give businesses time to adjust to the ACL, businesses may, for a limited time, comply with previous state and territory laws relating to the payment and supply of goods or services during cooling-off periods for door-to-door trading.


This means that, until 31 December 2011:

>��� in Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory, businesses may receive payment for goods � but not services
� during the cooling-off period

>��� in New South Wales, businesses must not collect any fees during the cooling-off period for services supplied
during that period

>��� in Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, Northern Territory and Tasmania, businesses cannot receive payment for goods or services during the cooling-off period � regardless of whether the agreement resulted from door-to-door trading or was negotiated by telephone. They must also not provide services during the cooling-off period.

If the supplier does not comply with the relevant state or territory provisions between 1 January 2011 and 31 December 2011, they must comply with the ACL. Failing to comply withthe ACL can lead to the penalties outlined on page 17.

For more information, contact the relevant state or territory consumer protection agency (see page 30 for agency
contact details).

When unsolicited consumer agreement laws do not apply

Unsolicited consumer agreement laws do not apply in some instances, including:

>��� business contracts, when goods are not of a kind ordinarily acquired for personal, domestic or household
use or consumption

>��� discontinued negotiations, if a consumer tells a dealer to go away but later contacts the same dealer

>��� party plan events, when the host makes it clear that a consumer is invited to the party to be sold something,
and at least three people are invited to the event

>��� renewal of contracts, when a business contacts a consumer and asks if they want to renew an existing contract (for example, a home telephone contract)

>��� when the agreement is not with a consumer � for example, the agreement is with someone who is buying goods to on-sell or to use to manufacture something else

>��� subsequent contracts with the same consumer for the same kind of goods or services.

When a consumer enters into an unsolicited consumer agreement with a particular supplier or dealer, the supplier or dealer does not need to comply with the unsolicited consumer agreement provisions for any other sales of the same
kind to that consumer during the next three months.

����� However, these extra sales must not add up to more than $500.

Any unsolicited approach for sale of goods or services over the $500 limit must comply with the laws on unsolicited consumer agreements � as must any unsolicited approach made after three months from the date the goods or services were supplied under the initial agreement.

For other exemptions, see the ACL Regulations.

Supplier responsibility for failing to comply � unsolicited agreements

A supplier cannot enforce an unsolicited consumer agreement if the supplier or the supplier�s dealer � for instance, a telemarketer or door-to-door salesperson � has breached the law on unsolicited consumer agreements (ACL sections 93 and 77).

Both the supplier and their salesperson or dealer may be liable for the breaches.

Suppliers are responsible for ensuring their salespeople and other representatives are fully aware of legal obligations when using unsolicited marketing approaches.

Penalties

Failing to comply with unsolicited consumer agreement requirements can lead to maximum civil and criminal penalties of $50,000 for a body corporate and $10,000 for an individual.


03. Pyramid schemes

 

Summary

Pyramid schemes make money by recruiting people rather than by selling a legitimate product or providing a service.

Pyramid schemes are illegal. A business or person must not participate in, or persuade others to participate in, a pyramid scheme.

A court can consider several factors to identify a pyramid scheme.

Criminal and civil penalties apply.

ACL reference: sections 44 and 46

What is a pyramid scheme?

Pyramid schemes make money by recruiting businesses or people rather than by selling a legitimate product or providing a service � even if they are selling a product.

New participants make a payment, known as a �participation payment�, to join. They are promised payments for recruiting other investors or new participants. Pyramid schemes inevitably collapse and new members never make money; they usually lose the money they have paid to participate.

It is unlawful to participate in, or to persuade someone to participate in, a pyramid scheme.

There are two payments associated with a pyramid scheme:

>��� a participation payment to join

>��� a recruitment payment, promised when a member recruits others.

These may be a financial or non-financial benefit, paid either to the new participant or to someone else.

The recruitment payment helps define a pyramid scheme � it must be the only or main reason a member joins.

A pyramid scheme may also have any or all of the following characteristics:

>��� participation payments may (or must) be made when joining the scheme

>��� a participation payment is not the only requirement for taking part

>��� a new investor does not have a legally enforceable right to the promised recruitment payments

>��� arrangements are not usually in writing

>��� the scheme involves promoting and selling goods or services (or both).

Marketing scheme or pyramid scheme?

To distinguish between a pyramid scheme and other promotions that may be legitimate, a court considers:

>��� the value of the participation payments compared with any goods or services that participants are entitled to receive under the scheme

>��� the emphasis placed on participants� entitlement to receive goods or services under the scheme, compared with the emphasis on their entitlement to receive future recruitment payments

>��� whether recruitment payments are the only or main reason a new participant becomes involved.
The ACL does not limit the matters a court can consider when working this out.

For example:

>��� A consumer must pay $1000 up front to participate in a new internet business. This payment entitles him to
1000 shares, which can only be sold back to the company or to other participants after 12 months.

The consumer is promised $100 in cash immediately for recruiting new people to the scheme. He attends a
90-minute promotional seminar about the scheme. The presenter spends
70 minutes on how to recruit new
investors and 20 minuteson the internet business.


The following characteristics help to define this as a pyramid scheme:

����� the shares are frozen for 12 months

����� � it pushes recruitment very hard

����� � recruitment payments are a substantial reason to join.

Penalties

A business or person must not participate in, or attempt to persuade others to participate in, a pyramid scheme.

The maximum civil and criminal penalties are $1.1 million for a body corporate and $220,000 for an individual
(ACL sections 44, 164).


04. Pricing

 

Summary

Multiple pricing

A supplier who displays multiple prices for the same goods must either:

>��� sell the goods for the lowest �displayed price�

>��� withdraw the goods from sale until the price is corrected.

A price published in a catalogue or advertisement is a �displayed price�.

Mistakes in catalogues and advertisements can be fixed by publishing a retraction in a publication with a similar circulation to the original advertisement.

Component pricing

A supplier must not promote or state a price that is only part of the cost, unless also prominently advertising the
single price.

ACL reference: sections 47-48, 165-166

Multiple pricing

A supplier who displays the same item with more than one price � �multiple pricing� � must sell it for the lowest displayed price or withdraw the goods from sale until the price is corrected. This applies regardless of where the price is displayed � for example, in a catalogue, online or in a television advertisement.

The �displayed price� is a price:

>��� attached to or on:

� the goods

� anything connected or used with the goods

� anything used to display the goods

>��� published in a catalogue available to the public, when:

� the deadline to buy at that price has not passed

� the catalogue is current (not out-of-date)

>��� that reasonably appears to apply to the goods, including a partly-obscured price, or

>��� displayed on a register or scanner.

A price is not a �displayed price� when it is:

>��� entirely obscured by another price

>��� a price per unit of measure and shown as an alternative means of expressing the price

>��� not in Australian currency, or unlikely to be interpreted as Australian currency.

A price published in a catalogue or advertisement ceases to be a displayed price when a retraction is published to a similar circulation or audience.

If a supplier specifies that a catalogue price applies only in a particular region, they can display a different price in a catalogue for another region.

Penalties � displayed price

Failing to sell goods for the lowest displayed price can lead to maximum civil and criminal penalties of $5000 for a body corporate and $1000 for an individual.


Component pricing

A supplier must not promote or state a price that is only part of the cost, unless also prominently advertising the single (total) price.

This applies to the supply and promotion of goods or services usually used for personal, domestic or household use or consumption.

For example:

>��� An electrical goods retailer advertises a 60cm LCD television for $1990**. In fine print at the bottom, it states this price excludes commission and warehouse retrieval fees.

The commission is $100 and warehouse retrieval fee is $50. These are known costs and part of the single price.

The television should have been advertised for either a single price of $2240, or with each extra cost listed along with the total. The single price should be as prominent as the component prices.

The single price must be:

>��� clear at the time of the sale

>��� as prominent as the most prominent component of the price.

The single price is the total of all measurable costs and includes:

>��� any charge payable, and

>��� the amount of any tax, duty, fee, levy or charges (for example, GST).

The single price does not have to include a charge for sending goods from the supplier to the consumer, unless the supplier is aware of a minimum charge that must be paid.

For example:

>��� A supplier advertises lounge suites for sale. At the point of sale consumers can pay extra for fabric protection.

The fabric protection charge does not form part of the single price because the consumer can choose whether to pay the extra charge.

A single price is not required when selling to a body corporate (see definitions, page 28).

A single price for services supplied under a contract that allows periodic payments does not have to be displayed as prominently as the component prices.

Penalties � component pricing

The maximum civil and criminal penalties for failing to comply with single price requirements are:

>��� $1.1 million for a body corporate, and

>��� $220,000 for an individual.


05. Lay-by agreements

 

Summary

Lay-by agreements must be in writing, expressed in plain language, legible and clearly presented.

A consumer can cancel a lay-by agreement but may have to pay a termination charge.

A supplier may only cancel a lay-by agreement under certain circumstances.

ACL reference: section 96-99

What is a lay-by agreement?

An agreement is a �lay by� if the consumer:

>��� pays for the goods in at least three instalments (when the agreement is not stated as �lay by�) or in two or more instalments (when the agreement states it is �lay by�), and

>��� does not receive the goods until the full price has been paid.

Any deposit paid by the consumer is an instalment.

For example:

>��� A consumer orders a Christmas hamper in advance and agrees to pay for it by weekly instalments over one month. This is a lay-by agreement.

Lay-by agreements that are standard form contracts may be covered by unfair contract terms provisions in
Part 2-3 of the ACL.

Requirements for lay-by agreements

Suppliers must ensure a lay-by agreement offered to a consumer:

>��� is in writing

>��� specifies all terms and conditions, including any termination charge

>��� is transparent, which means that it must be expressed in plain language, legible and clearly presented.

A lay-by agreement may not be transparent if, for example, terms and conditions are hidden in fine print or schedules, phrased in legal jargon, or given in complex or technical language.

A supplier must give a copy of the agreement to the consumer.

When a consumer cancels a lay-by agreement

The consumer can cancel the lay-by agreement any time before delivery of the goods. If the consumer cancels, the supplier must refund all amounts paid by the consumer, less any termination fee that was clearly specified in the lay-by agreement.

There is no set amount or percentage for a termination fee, but it must not be more than the supplier�s �reasonable costs� relating to the agreement � for example, storage and administrative costs. What is �reasonable� will depend on the circumstances, and suppliers should be prepared to justify claims for reasonable costs.

If the consumer�s lay-by payments do not cover the termination charge, the supplier can recover the outstanding amount as a debt. This should be stated clearly and legibly in the lay-by agreement, along with any other details of termination fees. Failing to do so may breach the requirement that lay-by agreements be transparent.

For example:

>��� In June, a consumer enters into a lay-by agreement to buy a $600 winter coat and pays instalments totalling $150. In August, she decides to cancel the agreement asks for a refund of all payments. As retailers discount winter coats to half-price in July, the supplier can now only sell the coat for $300.

The termination charge could include an amount to make up for the need to discount the coat to $300. However, the details of the termination charge would have to be set out clearly and legibly in the lay-by agreement so that the consumer is aware that they may have to pay for such an amount.


The supplier cannot charge a termination fee if the consumer cancelled because of something that was the supplier�s fault. For example, after the consumer has paid all instalments, the supplier advises that the consumer�s goods were damaged while in storage.

A supplier who cancels the lay-by agreement cannot charge a termination fee.

Apart from the termination charge, a supplier is not entitled to damages or any other remedy for the termination
of the lay-by.

Termination of lay-by agreements by suppliers

Suppliers must not terminate a lay-by agreement, except when:

>��� the consumer has breached a term of the agreement. For example, they failed to make a scheduled payment on time

>��� the supplier is no longer engaged in trade or commerce, or

>��� the goods are no longer available due to circumstances outside the supplier�s control (not because the supplier decided to withdraw the goods from sale).

Penalties

It is an offence for a supplier to:

>��� enter into a lay-by agreement without putting it in writing

>��� not give the consumer a copy of the written agreement

>��� refuse to refund all of the consumer�s money (except for the termination charge)

>��� charge a termination fee that is higher than the reasonable costs associated with the agreement, or when the supplier has breached the lay-by agreement.

Each offence has maximum civil and criminal penalties of $30,000 for a body corporate and $6000 for an individual.


06. Referral selling

 

Summary

Promising future commissions or rebates that depend on other events � for example, subsequent sales � is illegal in certain circumstances.

It is unlawful to persuade a consumer to buy goods or services by promising benefits for assisting the supply of goods or services to other customers.

ACL reference: section 49

What is referral selling?

Referral selling is when:

>��� a consumer is persuaded to buy goods or services by promises of a rebate, commission or other benefit for supplying information that helps the trader sell to other consumers, and

>��� the consumer does not get the promised benefit unless some other event happens after the agreement is made � for example, other consumers also have to buy the goods or services from the same supplier.

It is not �referral selling� for a supplier to promise a benefit for simply providing the names of consumers or helping the trader supply goods.

Penalties

The maximum civil and criminal penalties for referral selling are $1.1 million for a body corporate and $220,000
for an individual.


07. Harassment and coercion

 

Harassment and coercion

It is unlawful to use physical force, coerce or unduly harass someone about the supply of, or payment for,
goods or services.

ACL reference: section 50

What is harassment and coercion?

It is unlawful to use physical force, coercion or undue harassment in connection with the:

>��� supply or possible supply of goods or services

>��� payment for goods or services

>��� sale or grant, or the possible sale or grant, of an interest in land, or

>��� payment for an interest in land.

Undue harassment means unnecessary or excessive contact or communication with a person, to the point where
that person feels intimidated, tired or demoralised.

Coercion involves force (actual or threatened) that restricts another person�s choice or freedom to act. Unlike harassment, there is no requirement for behaviour to be repetitive in order to amount to coercion.

Legal reference: ACCC v Maritime Union of Australia [2001] FCA 1549

Financial institutions are entitled to attempt to collect debts but their conduct may be undue harassment or coercion when it involves frequent unwelcome approaches and requests or threats for payment. Laws relating to privacy, harassment and misleading or deceptive conduct apply to all businesses � including debt collection agencies.

For example:

>��� A woman went into arrears on her credit card debt when she lost her job and had to care for her ill mother.

The bank sold the debt to a debt collection company. The company told the woman that, if she left Australia, she would not be able to return while the debt was unpaid.

The company also obtained details and other information about the woman�s family. They did this by contacting her friend, pretending the woman had applied for a home loan and seeking information to verify her home loan application.

The company used this information to embarrass the woman and continued to call her, despite her request that they contact her through her financial counsellor.

����� The company�s actions would be considered harassment.

>��� A retirement village was sold by its owners. This led to a change in management. During the transfer of ownership, an energy company salesperson visited residents.

The door-to-door salesperson explained to all residents that because the management of the complex was changing, their power would be cut off unless they changed energy supplier. This would have to happen immediately to maintain their power supply.

Almost all of the residents signed with the new supplier. This created confusion for the residents, causing issues with payment plans, concessions, and multiple bills.

����� The salesman�s statements couldbe considered coercion.

For more information about acceptable debt collection practices, see Debt collection guideline: for collectors and creditors. This joint publication by the ACCC and ASIC is available from accc.gov.au.

Penalties

The maximum civil and criminal penalties for harassment and coercion are $1.1 million for a body corporate and $220,000 for an individual.


08. �Proof of transaction� and itemised bills

 

Summary

Suppliers must provide proof of transaction to consumers for goods or services valued at $75 or more. A GST tax invoice is sufficient proof of transaction.

Consumers may request an itemised bill.

ACL reference: section 100

What is proof of transaction?

�Proof of transaction� for supply of goods or services to a consumer is a document that states the:

>��� supplier of the goods or services

>��� supplier�s ABN, if they have one

>��� supplier�s ACN, if they have one but do not have an ABN

>��� date of the supply

>��� goods or services supplied to the consumer, and

>��� price of the goods or services.

Examples of proof of transaction:

>��� GST tax invoice

>��� cash register receipt

>��� credit card or debit card statement

>��� handwritten receipt

>��� lay-by agreement, or

>��� confirmation or receipt number provided for a telephone or internet transaction.

Supplier must provide proof of transaction

A supplier must give proof of transaction when a consumer:

>��� buys goods or services worth $75 or more (excluding GST), as soon as possible after the transaction

>��� asks for proof of transaction for goods and services costing less than $75, within seven days.

Itemised bills for services

A consumer can ask a supplier for an itemised bill that shows:

>��� how the price was calculated

>��� the number of labour hours and the hourly rate (if relevant), and

>��� a list of the materials used and the amount charged for them (if relevant).

This request must be made within 30 days of whichever happens later:

>��� the services are supplied, or

>��� the consumer receives a bill or account from the supplier for the supply of the services.

The supplier must give the consumer the itemised bill, without charge, within seven days of the request. It must be expressed in plain language, legible and clear.

Penalties

The maximum civil penalties for failing to provide consumers with a proof of transaction, or not providing it within the required time, are $15,000 for a body corporate and $3000 for an individual.


09. Warranties, refunds, repairs
� �consumer guarantees�

 

The ACL sets out protections for consumers who buy goods and services from suppliers, manufacturers and importers � the �consumer guarantees�.

The consumer guarantees are a comprehensive set of rights and remedies that apply to defective goods and services.
A consumer
has these rights regardless of any other warranty provided by the supplier or manufacturer.

For more information, see another guide in this series � Consumer guarantees: a guide for businesses and legal practitioners.

This guide includes:

>��� what consumer guarantees apply to certain goods and services

>��� who is responsible for satisfying the requirements of the consumer guarantees

>��� when to offer a remedy, such as a refund, repair or replacement.


Glossary and abbreviations

 

Term

Definition

body corporate

includes a company registered under the Corporations Act 2001, an incorporated association, a co-operative or an owners corporation

business day

Monday to Friday, except public holidays

buy

to take possession of something by hiring, leasing or buying it, and by exchange or gift

consumer

a person who buys:

>��� any type of goods or services costing up to ����� $40,000 (or any other amount stated in the
�����
ACL Regulations)

>��� goods or services costing more than $40,000, ����� which would normally be for personal, ����� domestic or household use, or

>��� goods which consist of a vehicle or trailer used ����� mainly to transport goods on public roads.

Australian courts have said that the following
are not normally used for personal, domestic or household purposes:

>��� an airseeder

>��� a large tractor

>��� an industrial photocopier.

goods

include, among other things:

>��� animals, including fish

>��� gas and electricity

>��� computer software

>��� second-hand goods

>��� ships, aircraft and other vehicles

>��� minerals, trees and crops, whether on or ����� attached to land

>��� any component part of, or accessory
����� to, goods.

liability

an obligation to put right a problem � for example, fixing a defective product, providing compensation or taking other action

manufacturer

includes a person who:

>��� grows, extracts, produces, processes
�����
or assembles goods

>��� holds him/herself out to the public
�����
as the manufacturer of goods

>��� causes or permits his/her name,
�����
business name or brand mark to
�����
be applied to goods he/she supplies

>��� permits him/herself to be held out as the ����� manufacturer by another person, or

>��� imports goods into Australia where the ����� manufacturer of the goods does not
�����
have a place of business in Australia.

remedy

an attempt to put right a fault, deficiency
or a failure to meet an obligation

regulator

the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission or state/territory
consumer protection agencies

services

duties, work, facilities, rights or benefits provided in the course of business. For example:

>��� dry cleaning

>��� installing or repairing consumer goods

>��� providing swimming lessons

>��� lawyers� services.

supplier

someone who, in trade or commerce, sells goods or services and is commonly referred to as a �trader�, �retailer� or �service provider�

supply

includes:

>��� in relation to goods � supply (including
�����
re-supply) by way of sale, exchange, lease,
�����
hire or hire-purchase, and

>��� in relation to services � provide, grant
����� or confer.

 

Abbreviations

ACL���� Australian Consumer Law

ACCC�� Australian Competition and Consumer Commission

ASIC��� Australian Securities and Investments Commission


Contacts

 

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission

GPO Box 3131
Canberra ACT 2601
T. 1300 302 502
accc.gov.au

 

Australian Capital Territory

Office of Regulatory Services

GPO Box 158
Canberra ACT 2601
T. (02) 6207 0400
ors.act.gov.au

 

New South Wales

NSW Fair Trading

PO Box 972
Parramatta NSW 2124
T. 13 32 20
fairtrading.nsw.gov.au

 

Northern Territory

Office of Consumer Affairs

GPO Box 1722
Darwin NT 0801
T. 1800 019 319
consumeraffairs.nt.gov.au

 

Queensland

Office of Fair Trading

GPO Box 3111
Brisbane QLD 4001
T. 13 QGOV (13 74 68)
fairtrading.qld.gov.au

 

South Australia

Office of Consumer & Business Affairs

GPO Box 1719
Adelaide SA 5001
T. (08) 8204 9777
ocba.sa.gov.au

 

Tasmania

Office of Consumer Affairs & Fair Trading

GPO Box 1244
Hobart TAS 7001
T. 1300 654 499
consumer.tas.gov.au

 


Victoria

Consumer Affairs Victoria

GPO Box 123
Melbourne 3001
T. 1300 55 81 81
consumer.vic.gov.au

 

Western Australia

Department of Commerce

Locked Bag 14
Cloisters Square WA 6850
T. 1300 30 40 54
commerce.wa.gov.au

 

Australian Securities and Investments Commission

PO Box 9827
(in your capital city)
T. 1300 300 630
asic.gov.au