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how does the law protect consumer rights

By Sirsami Sep 30, 2014 655 Words
How does the law protect the rights of consumers?!
The monumental changes in the last two centuries have rendered consumers especially vulnerable to unfair business conduct. In reaction to this the law has set out exactly what the rights of consumers are, and attempts to protect them through a number of ways. Over the years, the courts have made numerous decisions in relation to consumers and businesses and the result has been a thorough body of common laws that regulate the formation of contracts. The courts recognize contracts to be legally binding on both parties and through this the law imposes obligations and responsibilities predominantly on the business, thus ensuring that the rights of consumers will be respected and protected. The law protects the rights of consumers through legislation. Section 18 of the Australian Consumer Law makes it illegal for businesses to engage in any kind of misleading and deceptive conduct. For instance, in the case of Carlill v Carbolic Smoke Ball Co. (1893) QB 256, the court mandated that the company must return Ms. Carlill’s money because the cure that they advertised for influenza proved to be ineffective. Thus Ms. Carlill’s obligation to pay the company was negated due to being deceived by misrepresentation. In this case, the law ensured that Ms. Carlill’s right to refund will be upheld, because the law included a provision in the legislation that clarified that the intention of the company to deceive or not to deceive does not matter, only how the conduct affected the consumer. The legislature and the courts of Australia observe the principle that certain standards must be upheld in contracts, even when the parties do not state them expressly. These are called implied terms, an instance would be the notion of merchantable quality, where the goods fit the description. Implied terms protect consumers who may not be especially savvy of their rights as consumers and thus the law here further ensures that consumer rights will be protected, even when they are not expressly agreed to. The law recognizes that the more the scale of the contract is even, the more protected will consumer rights be. This is because businesses will not be given the upper hand in the bargain. Thus the law promotes cooperation and communication between the parties, in order to even the playing field. For example, for a contract to be valid, the law makes it a requirement that the parties reach consensus ad idem. This means that a contract is only valid if the consumers and businesses have agreed to the same things. Also, the Trade Practices Amendment Act 2009 (Cth) amended the Trade Practices Act 1974 (Cth) by inserting new provisions in relation to consumer contracts that made it a requirement for parties to cooperate and engage the other party in determining the terms of the contract. The effect of consensus ad idem and the aforementioned amendment is that the business will not be able to unilaterally introduce terms into the contract, possibly violating the rights of the consumer. The legislation further protects the rights of consumers by rendering unfair terms of standard form contracts void, these contracts that are entirely created by one side who holds excessive bargaining powers are now automatically discredited by the law. And lastly, the law protects the right of the consumer to a safe and proper product by allowing him to terminate the contract unilaterally in case there is a fault with the product. This protection is further supplemented by the law when it strongly encourages the inclusion of warranties into a contract, thus further protecting the right of a consumer to receive a useful and proper product. In conclusion, it is clear that consumers are at disadvantage when dealing with businesses. Therefore as evidenced in this essay, the law steps in the scene and provides protection for the rights of consumers through a number of ways that include legislation, court precedents and initiatives.

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