Commissioner's Blog: Supporting a level playing field
Have you ever walked away from a business transaction and felt it was unfair or you questioned how you were treated?
Whether you are a consumer or owner of a small business, you may have felt that it didn't feel like a level playing field. These types of business behaviours are referred to as unfair trading practices and the Australian Government is looking into how these behaviours might be causing harm and what could be done about it.
Currently, the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) bans several specific unfair business practices, such as false representations or unfair contract terms, but there is no ban on unfair trading practices in general, which can also impact consumers.
Examples of unfair practices can include using confusing information when trying to unsubscribe from a streaming service, or even a red button for ‘yes’ and a green button for ‘no’. Offering a “free prize” in exchange for collecting and using your personal data is another common example.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) recognises that many consumers and small businesses have limited bargaining power in dealing and competing with large businesses, making them more susceptible to unfair trading practices, that can also discourage or inhibit small businesses from competing in markets.
The Australian Government is looking at international jurisdictions, seeking recommendations from all consumer agencies to help shape Australia's competition and consumer laws around unfair trading practices, and seeking input from the community to make sure that consumers and small businesses aren't disadvantaged by large business.
The experiences and knowledge of consumers, consumer groups and small businesses are being sought on the proposed reforms to help level the playing field to better protect consumers and small businesses, and to guide and promote better business conduct, generally.
Consultation is now open and submissions are due to the Department of Treasury by 29 November 2023. Take a few minutes to share your experiences and how you feel these actions are causing harm, so we can all work together to ensure a more level, and therefore fairer, playing field for all.