A look at laws when consumer goods are left behind

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ConsumerBusiness / company

Laws covering cases where goods are left behind and how people can legally dispose of them are under review and Consumer Protection wants the views of those affected by the issue.

The Disposal of Uncollected Goods Act 1970 sets out the procedure people and traders should follow when they are left in possession of other people’s uncollected goods and need to discard them. This Act stipulates the notices that must be served, the methods and timing of disposal and how the proceeds are distributed if the goods are sold.

Some common examples of abandoned goods include:

  • The owner of a car leaves it at the premises of a mechanic or panel beater perhaps because they can’t afford to pay the bill or the cost is greater than the car’s value
  • The owner of clothing items fails to collect them from the drycleaner
  • A tow truck operator picks up a damaged vehicle but is not told by the owner what to do with it
  • Holidaymakers staying at a camping ground leave behind their tent and equipment

There are separate regulations in place to cover circumstances where a tenant leaves furniture and other items when vacating a rental property and when unsolicited goods are delivered to consumers, so these situations are not included in this review.

Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard said the laws, which were first introduced in 1970, need updating.

“The Act pre-dates the internet and mobile phones, so the requirement to send notices by post as well as placing a notice in the Government Gazette and in a newspaper is out-of-date and any changes need to take into account more modern methods of communication,” Mr Hillyard said.

“There is also a list of ‘prescribed goods’ in the Act which specifies radiograms, typewriters, tape recorders and record players, which highlights the need for an update.

“The cost of storing the goods can be a major burden especially for small businesses so we need to look at whether the current timeframes required before disposal are realistic. The timeframes in WA are longer than required in other States.

“Currently, goods valued at more than $3,500 require a court order before disposal whereas goods which are not prescribed goods and valued at less than $3,500 can only be disposed of by auction even if they have little or no value. In most cases, it can take six months before a business is free to dispose of goods.  Accordingly, we are considering how to make the process more efficient.

“It’s essential that while we want to reduce the regulatory burden for businesses that receive these goods, we must also maintain the appropriate levels of protection for the owners. So getting feedback will help us get the balance right.

“I urge anyone with an interest in this topic to first read the issues paper which outlines proposed changes and options. Then put in a submission, or email us your thoughts, to consider as part of the review process.”

The issues paper can be viewed or downloaded on the Consumer Protection website and submissions can be lodged by email consulations@dmirs.wa.gov.au or by post: Locked Bag 100, East Perth WA 6892.

Enquiries can be made by calling 1300 30 40 54. Submissions close on Friday, 27 September 2019.


Media Contact: Alan Hynd, (08) 6552 9248 / 0429 078 791 / alan.hynd@dmirs.wa.gov.au  


Consumer Protection
Media release
27 Jun 2019

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