简介 In brief
Traders need to be aware when they make representations (verbal, written, or by conduct) that they are not in contravention of the Australian Consumer Law. Breaches can incur serious fines and a huge loss to the reputation of the business.
The general protections available to the consumers under The Australian Consumer Law (Schedule 2 of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Cth)) (the Act) are as follows:
- A person must not, in trade or commerce, engage in a conduct that is unconscionable.
What is “unconscionable”? Below are a few factors the court may consider:
- Previous cases
- Any circumstances that are foreseeable or not foreseeable by the person at the time of the act
- The relative bargaining position of the supplier and consumer
- Whether the consumer is able to understand the documents provided by the supplier relating to the supply of goods and or services
- Whether the consumer was oppressed or coerced by the supplier
- Whether the supplier has the ability to unilaterally amend any terms of the contract between the supplier and the consumer
- Whether the supplier and or the consumer entered into the transaction in good faith
- 商人不得在商业交易上有欺骗或者误导的行为，或者做可能会造成欺骗或者误导行为的事情 A person must not, in trade or commerce, engage in a conduct that is misleading or deceptive or is likely to mislead or deceive.
A person must not make misleading or deceptive representations with regards to:
- 物品或者服务的性质 Nature or characteristics of goods and or services
- 物品制造过程 Manufacturing process of the goods
- 物品或者服务的适用程度 Suitability of the goods and services
- 物品或者服务的数量或者数额 Quantity of goods and services
- 物品或者服务的价格Prices of goods and services
As the below case studies demonstrate, breaches of these provisions by businesses may result in serious consequences.
案例 1 ：澳大利亚竞争与消费者委员会控告TPG一案
Australian Competition and Consumer Commission v TPG Internet Pty Ltd  HCA 54
TPG engaged in a multimedia advertising campaign for its ADSL2+ service. The advertisement prominently displayed the offer to supply ADSL2+ internet services for $29.99 per month. However, the advertisement qualified this offer in a much less prominent manner, stating that the offer was on the basis that the ADSL2+ service was available only when bundled with a TPG home phone service for an additional $30 per month with a minimum commitment of 6 months. In addition, there was also a setup fee of $129.95 plus a deposit of $20 for telephone charges.
The ACCC was successful in its action that TPG’s advertisements were misleading and deceptive due to the difference between the prominence of the offer and the terms qualifying the offer. TPG was ordered to pay a pecuniary penalty of AUD $2 million. The penalty comprised of the following:
行为 Conduct 罚款 Penalty
第一阶段广告 First phase advertisements
第二阶段广告 Second phase advertisements
电视与电影院Television and cinema $350,000
Key point: The conditions of an offer, if any, need to be “quite clear and prominent” in order to correct any misleading impression of an offer. This is especially so in relation to advertisements made on television or radio.
Interestingly, the judge found that consumers would read brochures more carefully than a newspaper so that any misleading impression created by the headline of a brochure was likely to be corrected by the balance of the information in the brochure.
It is also important to note that it is irrelevant whether or not you intended to mislead or deceive.
案例 2: 澳大利亚竞争与消费者委员会近期控诉LG一案
Australian Competition and Consumer Commission v LG Electronics Australia Pty Ltd  FCA 1456
LG因为两个个别案子被判违反了消费者保证而被罚款澳币 $160,000。这两个案子中，LG的底层员工都跟消费者说因为超过了LG的厂商保固期限，所以消费者必须付LG修理的人工费用，而LG可以支付零件费用。这是违反了消费者在澳大利亚消费者法律下的权利。LG其实对于员工有密集的训练过程，在过程中也没有疏忽。但是因为LG员工的行为确实造成了欺骗或者误导消费者的效果，所以被判罚款澳币 $160,000。
In a recent case, LG was ordered by the Federal Court to pay a penalty of AUD $160,000 for two counts of misleading representations of the consumer guarantee available under Australian Consumer Law, by stating to two separate customers that they would need to pay for the labour cost of the repairs (whislt LG will bear the costs of the parts) as the items were outside the manufacturer warranty period. This decision was made despite the fact that the infringements were committed by LG’s low-level customer service agents and that LG had comprehensive training procedures in place.
你应该怎么做？What do you need to do?
确保你的表达不会造成欺骗或者误导。如果发布广告，请确保任何附加条件都很清晰的写明，让广告的对象可以清楚的看到。Ensure that your representations are not misleading or deceptive or could be interpreted as such. When publishing advertisements, ensure that any conditional terms are clear and visible to the targeted audience.
This article aims to provide you with very general legal information and cannot constitute legal advice to any tailored circumstance. If you wish to know more, please do not hesitate to contact me.