PROTECTIONS for Australian consumers have been secured in this year’s Budget with increased penalties for companies and individuals that breach consumer law, Small Business Minister Michael McCormack says.
“My most important job as the Minister responsible for Consumer Affairs is to ensure Australians are protected from being ripped off or misled, so people can make purchases with confidence,” Mr McCormack said.
The move will increase the maximum financial penalties under the Australian Consumer Law by aligning consumer penalties with the competition provisions of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 from 1 July 2018.
“The Government has moved to ensure there is a strong deterrent to ripping -off Australian consumers by increasing maximum penalties to ensure that businesses which break the law have to pay,” Mr McCormack said.
“It’s not good enough that some companies think paying a penalty for breaches of consumer law is just the cost of doing business – so that will end.
“These penalties will hold those companies accountable and impose a real financial cost – increasing the penalty to $10 million or three times the value of the benefit the company received or if this cannot be determined then 10 per cent of its annual turnover in the preceding 12 months, whichever is the greater. The fines for individuals are up to $500,000.”
Mr McCormack said the Government had acted decisively to implement greater consumer penalties following consultation with stakeholders as part of the review of the Australian Consumer Law, undertaken jointly by the Commonwealth, States and Territories over the past year.
“Since taking on the role, I have met with a large number of consumer advocacy groups which have put forward strong cases for this change,” Mr McCormack said.
“I have also taken on board feedback from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission following recent cases it has taken under the Australian Consumer Law.
“While the Labor Party has been pacing the press gallery and writing opinion pieces, the Government has listened to everyday Australians and taken action by writing this into the Budget.
“I strongly encourage the State and Territory Consumer Affairs Ministers, when we meet in August this year, to agree to this positive change for consumers and I look forward to their support.”