The number of commercial transactions entered into by consumers everyday is undoubtedly large. People can purchase a good or service that they want, when they want it. What often slips our minds is the fact that every time we do this, we are entering into a contract and along with that come terms and conditions.
To ensure that consumers get what they pay for and are protected, the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) was introduced in 2011. Prior to this, consumers were protected by the relevant laws of each State and Territory. The ACL applies across Australia and is designed to protect consumers when they are engaging in commercial transactions.
The basic premise of the ACL is that when a good or service is purchased, there is a guarantee that it will work and serve the purpose that it was purchased for.
If the good or service fails to meet the consumer guarantee, then it can be replaced, repaired or refunded.
The ACL also includes:
- A national unfair contract terms law covering ‘standard form’ consumer and small business contracts
- A national product safety law and enforcement system
- A national law for unsolicited consumer agreements covering door-to-door sales and telephone sales
- National rules for lay-by agreements
- Penalties, enforcement powers, and consumer redress options
The ACL is set out in Schedule 2 of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Cth) (previously known as the Trade Practices Act 1974). This legislation also sets out the independent statutory powers of Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). The ACCC promotes good business practices for a fair and efficient marketplace and is tasked with administering the ACL. Fair Trading legislation is governed by state and territory laws.
If you’re unsure how fair trading laws apply to your situation, you should seek legal advice from a Consumer Lawyer who has experience in this area.
What Is A Consumer Lawyer?
A Consumer Lawyer is a lawyer who provides expert advice to consumers who have been subjected to unfair trading practices by producers or sellers. Consumer lawyers play a crucial role in administering the Australian Consumer Law and protecting the rights of consumers.
Why Do I Need A Consumer Lawyer?
Under Australian Consumer Law when a consumer suffers loss or damage and the producer or seller has breached their duty of care, consumers are able to seek compensation. Loss or damage to the consumer can include damage to their person, property or economic loss.
Some situations where you will want to seek a consumer lawyer may include:
- If you have been the subject of an online scam, identity theft or unauthorised charges
- If you have purchased a product, for example, a car and the seller has failed to disclose any hidden defects with the car
- If you have purchased unsafe, unusable or faulty products
- If you have entered into a consumer contract that includes unfair terms
- If you have been subjected to unfair business practices such as fraud or misrepresentations
- If you have been misled by an advertisement making false claims
Consumer law is a broad area covering various issues which is why consulting with a consumer lawyer can ensure you are afforded the proper consumer protection.
From a business perspective, a consumer lawyer will ensure your business is compliant with regulatory obligations and can facilitate dealings with the ACCC.
What Will A Consumer Lawyer Provide?
Our consumer lawyers will provide you with expert advice to ensure you receive the protection which is afforded under the Australian Consumer Law. Consumer lawyers will provide guidance, explore your legal options, help you when making a claim and seeking the best possible compensation for your loss or injury.
How Much Will A Consumer Lawyer Charge?
Legal costs can be unpredictable and expensive for consumers. These can prevent you from starting a claim and being reimbursed for your losses. Consumer lawyers can charge on a fixed price or hourly basis.
Our aim at LawPath is to provide you with legal options that are fast, affordable and tailored to your needs. We’ll connect you with consumer lawyers most suited to your individual needs. This allows you to choose the solution which is best tailored to your situation.
Hourly Rates and Court Fees
The cost of a Consumer Lawyer will vary based on the scope of the work. Small issues likely to be addressed quickly will cost less. For matters that will need to go to the relevant Court, Commission or Tribunal, there may be additional fees involved, particularly as this work takes time. These types of matters may also involve obtaining documents and negotiating with the other party.
What Can A Consumer Lawyer Legally Charge?
Legal costs can rise very quickly, especially in litigation. However, this is sometimes hard to avoid when work is being done by a lawyer on an hourly basis. Where fixed-fees are not offered by the lawyer, you should expect to be invoiced on a monthly basis with a time period within which you are required to make payment. Lawyers are required to adhere to the rules outlined in the relevant acts. For example, in NSW and Victoria, this is the Legal Profession Uniform Law 2014. Lawyers who do not comply with these rules can face disciplinary action from the law society of their State.
Lawyers are required to provide to their clients a document called a ‘costs disclosure’ if your costs will be higher than $750.00. This document will outline how costs will be calculated in relation to your case. Also be mindful that costs are divided into ‘professional costs’ and ‘disbursements’, and you will be expected to pay for both. Professional costs are the costs of the actual work done by the lawyer, whilst disbursements cover incidentals such as court filing fees, telephone calls, photocopying charges – amongst other things.
What If I Don’t Agree With The Costs?
You have the right to request an itemised bill that will outline how much time was spent on each task in relation to your matter, and how this adds up to the fee you’re requested to pay. If you wish to dispute the cost, you can make a complaint to the The Office of the Legal Services Commissioner (OLSC) and they will investigate the matter and may allocate a costs assessor. You can also take further legal action in the Courts if you feel you have been unfairly charged.