Earlier this year David Wright, Senior Lecturer at the Adelaide Law School, made a submission to Treasury’s Australian Consumer Law Review. David’s submission focused on enforcement of consumer protection laws, both in terms of public and private enforcement.
At the moment enforcement is almost exclusively undertaken by the ACCC, a public body. Although there is a lot of private litigation of the ACL, there is very little private enforcement of the ACL. The reason for this really lies in the remedies available under the ACL.
At the moment damages under the ACL are purely about compensation (which have little deterrence effect). So at the moment, enforcement is almost exclusively done by the ACCC. How? It can seek penalties for breaches of the ACL. But the sad experience of ASIC indicates how a budget cut can cause a substantial drop in public enforcement. When you don’t have much private enforcement, any drop in public enforcement is a matter of concern. With the ACL, all that is needed is a big budget cut to the ACCC and much of the enforcement of the ACL disappears.
David’s submission focuses on increasing private enforcement by using the tort idea of exemplary/ punitive damages. So like torts, damages for a breach of the ACL isn’t exclusively about compensation.
Click here to read David’s submission.