September 27, 2022

How Australia can Stop Unfair Business Practices

Unfair business practices cause consumer harm but currently, there’s a gap in our laws to effectively protect Australian consumers. This report explores laws that ban or restrict unfair practices across Europe, United States, United Kingdom and Singapore​. Also, highlights lessons Australia can learn from international approaches to implementing unfair trading laws​ and outlines the elements that Australia could consider when implementing an effective unfair trading prohibition.​

Download Full Report

What can we learn

The eight key lessons Australia can learn from international approaches:

  1. Understand who the law protects
  2. Harm is more than just losing money
  3. Account for new and emerging issues
  4. Clarity and flexibility are key
  5. Poorly resourced regulators mean delayed outcomes for consumers
  6. Inadequate penalties and consumer redress stifle widespread change
  7.  Inconsistency across the same jurisdiction creates regulatory arbitrage
  8. Unfair trading laws don’t replace existing protections; they complement them

Key considerations for stopping unfair business practices in Australia

CPRC recommends lawmakers to consider some key elements when developing unfair trading laws in Australia:

icon

Clear guidance on definitions and scope

  • Be clear about how the term unfair is defined, ensuring it’s broad but with enough markers for regulators to effectively enforce against it.
  • Design the law in a way that captures unfair practices that can affect any consumer, especially people experiencing disadvantage or any form of vulnerability.
icon

Well-resourced regulators

Empower regulators with adequate resources so they have the capacity to proactively assess and test the potential impact of an unfair practice before widespread harm has taken place.

icon

Effective process to address new and emerging unfair practices

Ensure there are provisions in place that allow the law to evolve over time and for regulators to specifically blacklist certain unfair practices as they emerge.

icon

Penalties and enforcement action that adequately deter businesses

Hold businesses accountable for their actions and ensure penalties, fines and other enforcement actions adequately deter businesses from engaging in or continuing unfair business practices.

icon

Meaningful redress for consumers

Provide individuals with meaningful access to redress from the harms they’ve experienced from unfair practices and ensure regulators consider redress as part of their enforcement initiatives.

icon

Practices found to be unfair overseas are swiftly stopped in Australia too

Enable regulators to insist that practices found to be unfair by a business in other jurisdictions can be quickly addressed by the business in Australia too.

icon

Consumer harm not just limited to financial or reputational loss but also impact on mental health

Consider the impact on mental health when mapping the spectrum of harms caused by unfair business practices.

Where to from here?

Together, we have the opportunity to shape how Australian consumers today, and in the future, can be adequately protected and empowered to confidently participate in and reap the benefits of a fair, safe and inclusive market.

CPRC welcomes the opportunity to work further on this issue with government, regulators, policy makers, academia and the community sector.

If you are in one the above groups and would like a one-on-one briefing for your organisation, contact Chandni Gupta on chandni.gupta@cprc.org.au.

About the author:

dummy

Chandni Gupta

Digital Policy Director

Chandni leads CPRC’s research stream on protecting consumers in a digital world. Her work to date includes exploring the consumer shift from the analogue towards the digital economy, the impact of deceptive and manipulative online design on Australian consumers and the key gaps that currently exist in Australia’s consumer protections.

Links

Book a Briefing

Other reports

Newsletter sign-up

Skip to content