Page 1378 - Week 04 - Thursday, 5 May 2022

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Consumer affairs—right to repair
(Question No 684)

Mrs Kikkert asked the Minister for Consumer Affairs, upon notice, on 25 March 2022:

(1) What has the ACT Government done in response to the Productivity Commission “right to repair” inquiry report since its release.

(2) Is the ACT Government actively working in consultation with the Federal Government to work on amending Australian Consumer Law to introduce “right to repair” type legislation; if so, what work is being done.

Mr Rattenbury: The answer to the member’s question is as follows:

The Productivity Commission’s report was initiated in response to a motion by the ACT at the Ministerial Consumer Affairs Forum (CAF) in 2019.

The report made 16 recommendations. The majority of recommendations require work to be undertaken by the Commonwealth or through multi-jurisdictional working groups. However, recommendation 3.3 provided that the State and Territory governments should identify opportunities to enhance alternate dispute resolution options in each jurisdiction to better resolve complaints about consumer guarantees.

The ACT has already implemented a mechanism which aligns with the intentions of this recommendation. The ACT Government strengthened enforcement through the Justice Legislation Amendment Act 2020 which amended the Fair Trading (Australian Consumer Law) Act 1992 to introduce a regime for the conciliation of consumer disputes by the Commissioner for Fair Trading (the Commissioner). Following these amendments, the Commissioner has the power to require a business to attend a compulsory in-person conciliation to assist consumers and businesses to resolve disputes relating to a consumer guarantee under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL).

This conciliation process imposes a monetary limit of $5000 for consumer disputes. If a business fails to attend a compulsory conciliation and does not have a reasonable excuse of non-attendance, their non-attendance is subject to a civil penalty to be determined by the Magistrates Court. If necessary, the Commissioner can also apply to ACAT for an order enforcing an agreement’s terms should the terms be breached.

It is anticipated that conciliations will commence in May 2022.

From the ACT’s perspective, the Productivity Commission’s inquiry offers the Federal Government an opportunity to work with States and Territories to strengthen and better enforce the ACL’s consumer guarantees and, broadly, consumer protections. The Federal Government is yet to respond to the Report. Following the Federal election, I look forward to discussing the Federal response to the Report and working with Federal, State and Territory colleagues to further implement recommendations. I have also met with the Productivity Commission this year regarding the report to discuss the findings in more detail.

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