Comparing Product Safety Re-Regulation in Australia: The Never-Ending Story

Product Safety is one major theme for the 4th Consumer Law Roundtable, hosted this year at Sydney Law School on 4 December 2009. Others include unfair contract terms and consumer credit, and this Roundtable will have an Asia-Pacific focus. Professor Michelle Tan will join us again from Japan, and keynote speakers are Professor Tsuneo Matsumoto (chair of Japan’s new Consumer Commission, which he outlines here) and VUW’s Kate Tokeley (considering unfair contract terms from a New Zealand perspective). A major role of the new Consumer Affairs Agency – supervised by Commission – is to collect and analyse consumer product-related accident data, which Japanese suppliers need to disclose since amendments in 2006.
Meanwhile, on 16 November the Australian Treasury initiated yet another public Consultation: “Regulatory Impact Statement – Australian Consumer Law – Best Practice Proposals and Product Safety Regime”. Before being considered for a Bill, a cost-benefit analysis (RIS) has been required for these proposals, based on consumer law reform recommendations from the Productivity Commission in 2008 other than those (especially unfair contract terms regulations) which were introduced as a separate Bill in July – without the extra hurdle of such a RIS analysis. Unfortunately, the Treasury did not publicise well this latest Consultation (eg not via their portal) and required Submissions by 30 November. They wanted to report to the Ministerial Council of Consumer Affairs (MCCA), also scheduled for 4 December – alongside, incidentally, PM Rudd’s major conference on the Asia Pacific Community concept (see my revised blog on that here).
Despite this very tight deadline, I provided the following Submission in response to Part II (pp 82-98) of this consultation, regarding Product Safety (PS) re-regulation. I elaborated mainly on a few key points developed in my Submission to the first consultation on the Australian Consumer Law reform announced in February 2009. Hopefully Australia will finally join Japan and many other Asia-Pacific countries (China, Canada and the US) in adopting the new global standards for PS.

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