Consumer protection from unconscionable conduct

THE consumer laws (ACL) create a general prohibition against engaging in unconscionable conduct in trade or commerce.

They also create a prohibition against such conduct in connection with the supply of goods or services to consumers.

Unconscionable conduct is not defined in the ACL but is generally understood to mean conduct which is so harsh or unreasonable that it defies good conscience. The concept has been developed in court decisions on a case-by-case basis for many years.

As a consumer, you can take steps to help protect yourself from falling victim to unconscionable conduct when purchasing goods or services, such as:

  • ensure commercial agreements are in writing;
  • don’t sign without reading the agreement carefully;
  • if you don’t understand the agreement, for eg technical terms or jargon, ask what they mean;
  • if you feel like you are being pressured into signing – don’t sign;
  • seek independent legal advice if necessary.

If you believe you have been the victim of unconscionable conduct when purchasing goods or services as a consumer, you have a few options:

  • report it to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission;
  • if you have suffered financial loss or damage – seek legal advice about whether you may be able to make a claim for compensation;
  • if you entered into a contract – seek legal advice about whether the terms can be varied or if the contract may be void.

Next week I’ll look at the express consumer guarantees under the ACL.

Until then – keep it legal.

Katie Caldow

*The legal information in this article is of a general nature only and not intended to be legal advice to rely upon.

Walker PenderConsumer protection from unconscionable conduct