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Australian Consumer Law marks 10 years with some large penalties

26 May 2021 | Sydney
Legal Briefings – By Paul Burton and Anna Vandervliet

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The Australian Consumer Law marked its tenth anniversary on 1 January 2021. Some belated presents were recently delivered in the form of the confirmation of, and the handing down of, Australia’s two largest ever penalties for contraventions of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Cth) (CCA).

On 9 April 2021, the Full Court of the Federal Court confirmed that the penalty of $125 million that was imposed by the Court on Volkswagen in December 2019 was not excessive, let alone manifestly excessive. Then on 13 May 2021, the Federal Court imposed a penalty of $50 million on Telstra. 

Given the potential for significant penalties to flow from fresh contraventions of the ACL, companies should re-evaluate their compliance priorities in circumstances where the Courts will sanction consumer law contraventions just as seriously as they do competition law contraventions.

In addition to higher penalties, other changes may be made to the ACL in the coming 12 months, including changes to the Unfair Contract Terms regime. 

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