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Future directions 

The future of consumer protection in Australia will rely on co-operation between State and Commonwealth governments. Because of Australia’s federal system of government, constitutional constraints mean that the Commonwealth’s powers are restricted in many areas. A co-operative approach will result in uniform consumer protection laws across all jurisdictions.

A range of national reform projects have been agreed to by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) that affect the laws administered by NSW Fair Trading. These changes to consumer laws take effect between July 2010 and July 2013. For more details, visit the National reforms to consumer laws section of this website.

Consumer protection challenges

Image of computer hardwareChanges in marketing strategies, the wide variety of choice in the marketplace, the increasing reliance of Australian consumers on credit and the process of deregulation mean that governments still have a vital role to play in developing appropriate consumer protection responses and ensuring a fair marketplace for everyone.

Recent advances in information technology and the way we are able to communicate and do business with other people are very exciting. But they also mean Australian consumers are easily targeted by bogus overseas offers online. Scammers can access lists of tens of thousands of e-mail addresses and cover millions of Internet subscribers very quickly and easily. It doesn't matter to them that they might only get a handful of replies – a handful of victims at no cost, is still a good deal.

Phone and mail scams still persist with overseas lottery offers and pyramid schemes dominate, but NSW householders are now also likely to receive overseas phone calls from so-called investment advisors promoting dubious share deals.

Australian consumer protection agencies regularly check the internet for illegal offers – and some of them are very sophisticated – but consumers must constantly be on their guard.

Consumer protection agencies must also seek ways of deregulating the marketplace without adversely affecting consumer rights. Total deregulation could lead to domination of the marketplace by powerful monopolies. Because of their market position, they could hold consumers to ransom.

In the 21st century, consumer protection agencies must perform a delicate balancing act. Unnecessary regulation stifles innovation and consumer choice. But an absence of industry regulation works against the interests of consumers.

The challenge is to promote a free and internationally competitive marketplace without jeopardising the rights of consumers.

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