Published: Tue, Jun 28th, 2011

Consumer Law Update - Consumer Law Reform Bill

A Consumer Law Reform Bill (‘the Bill’) will be introduced to Parliament later this year to update and simplify consumer law.

This is in recognition of the fact that the laws covering layby sales, door to door sales, unsolicited goods and services, and the regulations for auctioneers have not been reviewed for some time.

The Ministry of Consumer Affairs (‘the Ministry’) released a detailed discussion paper on Consumer Law Reform in June 2010. Extensive consultation has taken place since that time and, together with submissions received, has resulted in five additional papers being produced by the Ministry.

The Bill will reform the Consumer Guarantees Act, the Weights and Measures Act, the Layby Sales Act, the Fair Trading Act, the Door to Door Sales Act, the Auctioneers Act and the Unsolicited Goods and Services Act. Each Act has been reviewed taking into consideration:

its history, original purpose and ongoing relevance, and

  • any gaps in the law, and the effectiveness and overall enforceability of the Act.

It is beyond the scope of this article to describe all of the reforms proposed, however, listed below are some that may be of interest:

  • The Fair Trading Act will be amended to update and simplify consumer law related to layby sales, unsolicited goods and services, door to door sales, and the regulation of auctioneers. It is proposed that infringement notices for minor breaches of the Fair Trading Act will be issued by the Commerce Commission.
  • The Consumer Guarantees Act will be amended to require greater disclosure to consumers on express warranties and provide consumers who take up cover under express warranties a statutory cooling off period.
  • Changes will be introduced to product safety protections. The Minister will be empowered to issue Government Product Safety Statements that will provide some guidance on acceptable product safety. Notifi cation of product safety recalls will be mandatory and recalls will be published on the Ministry website. Goods that are recalled may be required by the Ministry to be destroyed and a supplier may be asked by the Ministry to stop selling a product if it has been implicated in a serious incident.
  • The law related to auctions will be updated. The Consumer Guarantees Act “acceptable quality” provisions will apply to goods sold by auction, online, and to those sold by tender. The Auctioneers Act will be repealed and minimum standards will be set for the registration of auctioneers and the conduct of auctions.
  • Unsubstantiated claims will be prohibited under the Fair Trading Act. The Ministry anticipates this measure will assist the Commerce Commission in enforcing the Fair Trading Act as well as assisting consumer confi dence and good market conduct.
  • The jurisdiction of the Disputes Tribunal will be extended to cover complaints about deceptive and misleading conduct and to provide for the full range of remedies available under the Fair Trading Act.

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