Whether you’re starting out in the business world or find regular compliance confusing – everyone can deal with a solid self-assessment to take out the guesswork.
No, we’re not talking about ATO compliance, such as taxes and payroll, we’re talking about consumer regulations and Australian Consumer Law (ACL).
Without further ado – here’s a simple checklist, adapted from The Australian Consumer Law (ACL), (which applies to all States, Territories, and Australian businesses), to help you stay on top of regulations.
1) Check your contracts for unfair terms
The first step is to review your contracts for unfair terms. In doing so, you’ll be looking to answer the following questions:
- Do you create or enter into written contracts with your customers?
- Are these contracts created without negotiating with your customers?
- Are your goods or services primarily intended for personal or household use?
If you answered “Yes” to all three questions, your contracts are probably covered by ‘unfair contract terms’ as laid out by the ACL. This means you’ll need to be careful about the specific terminology in your contracts, to ensure you aren’t violating the law (by being unfair to the consumer).
Check each item in your contracts to ensure they are fair and compliant with Australian Consumer Law. See if any:
- cause a significant imbalance in the party’s rights and obligations
- are not necessary to protect your legitimate interests
- would cause detriment if applied.
2) Display your prices
If you’re in the retail game (in particular) your attention to displaying correct pricing is critical to compliance.
- Do you display prices in more than one place, and if you do and they’re not the same, do you sell the goods for a higher price?
If your answer is “Yes” you may be breaching pricing laws.
- Do you display a price that’s only part of the full price? If so, do you also display the full price?
Indeed, you may also be in breach of pricing laws around ‘compound pricing’ if your answer is “No” to the latter…
3) Make sure the goods you sell are safe
Demanding serious attention to detail as a business owner, ACL laws often centre around product safety.
- Do you know how to find out whether goods you supply have been banned?
- Do you know how to find out whether your goods or services are covered by mandatory safety standards?
- Do you know how to find out whether your goods or services are covered by mandatory information standards?
- Do you know what to do if a product is recalled?
- Do you have processes in place to deal with a situation where a product you sold has hurt someone?
Small business owners will need to be fully aware of the answers to these questions. Be sure to brush up by visiting the Consumer Product Safety guidelines on the Product Safety Australia website. There are important procedures clear on the website around product safety – for example, you’ll need to lodge a report with the Commonwealth Minister within two days of the occurrence, and notify your staff, if you’re informed a product or service you’ve sold has injured someone, made them sick, or resulted in death.
4) Sweep for unsolicited selling and cold calling
In Australia, there are stringent laws and regulations around:
- unsolicited calls
- door knocking
If you undertake any of these activities or are unsure, you’ll need to check relevant rules under the unsolicited consumer agreement provisions of the ACL.
5) Cross-check advertising
In engaging in any advertising, it’s your responsibility to comply with consumer laws around unfair business practices such as puffery, bait advertising and fine print.
6) Itemise billing
Do you provide itemised bills for transactions? If so, every bill over $75 (ex GST) must include a full itemised breakdown of the sale as proof of the transaction. If under $75, the consumer may request one and you have seven days to provide it to them free of charge.
7) Provide receipts
Ensuring you have the correct information on your proof of purchases, or receipts, is a must. They need to tick every box in terms of displaying your identifying information (ABN or ACN) if applicable, along with details of what you’ve supplied, and the price. Upon missing any of these inclusions, your receipts may not comply with the ACL.
8) Deal with refunds
Being able to handle refunds is also part of your responsibility as a business owner.
- Do you have a refund policy in place?
- Do you state ‘no refunds’ in signage?
Keep these questions front of mind. Be aware that no matter your company policies, it’s not just up to you how, if, and when, you offer refunds. Refund rules are governed under ‘consumer guarantees’, and telling a consumer unconditionally that there are ‘no refunds’ will likely be an ACL breach.
*There are many more laws and regulations that business owners need to know, including warranties and repairs. For a full list download the guide by ACL and visit the aforementioned websites. NB: Reckon does not give out legal advice, and this article does not constitute legal advice.