Last week the Senate released its lengthy report on the Trade Practices Amendment (Australian Consumer Law) Bill 2009 (quite a contrast to its flimsy little report on criminal cartel laws … but that is a separate issue)
Chapter 10 contains the Committee’s views and recommendations on key issues:
Uncertainty – Committee considered concerns that the bill would lead to greater business uncertainty were overstated, but did recommend that the ACCC and ASIC issue guidelines on the bill’s provisions
Insurance contracts – the bill does not apply to insurance contracts covered by the Insurance Contracts Act 1984 – the Committee found that ‘consumers are not provided with adequate protection in insurance contracts under existing law’ and recommended the Government address this through the insurance contracts legislation to ensure equivalent protection to that provided by the Bill.
Commencement date – Committee noted many had argued the proposed commencement deadline of 1 January 2010 was too soon – but Committee took the view that as the bill had been debated for many months business was aware of it and consumers should ‘benefit from the protection’ as soon as possible.
Although not a part of their recommendations in chapter 10, the Committee also addressed the issue of the exclusion of business-to-business contracts from the Bill, noting that it ‘gathered considerable evidence supporting the application of unfair contract terms laws to protect small business … and indicated that they though it was ‘important that the government responds to these concerns after completing its review of this committee’s December 2008 inquiry into section 51AC … and the Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services’ inquiry into the Franchising Code of Conduct.’