National Farm Safety Awareness Week

FARMSAFE Australia is a not-for-profit organisation that assists in the co-ordination of initiatives specifically focused on raising awareness of (and helping to address) safety issues specific to our farms.

One of Farmsafe’s annual initiatives is National Farm Safety Week. It provides a platform to raise awareness of farm specific safety issues with a national focus. This year National Farm Safety Week runs from July 21-26, 2019.

Given the importance of this topic, I thought I would get a head start and dedicate the remainder of my articles for July 2019 to farm safety.

Earlier this year. I wrote about quad bike safety, which is a very relevant topic for farms.

This remains a very topical issue nationwide and since my article the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) Quad Bikes Taskforce has made recommendations for a mandatory safety standard specifically addressing quad bike safety.

A draft standard has been prepared and submissions were invited on its content up until June 10 this year.

I have looked at the draft standard. It is not too lengthy at 23 pages and it appears clear to me that addressing risk of rollover was a particular focus.

I am not surprised by this given 64 per cent of quad bike fatalities in 2018 related to rollovers. You can keep informed by checking out the quad bike safety investigations information on the ACCC’s Product Safety website

Until next week – stay safe and 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.

Consumer laws – get the most from your gift cards

GIFT cards are quite popular and are sold by many businesses.

Many of us have purchased or received a gift card – they are a great option for birthday or Christmas presents.

I am sure that at least some of us (myself included) have lost the value of the card by failing to redeem it before it expires. Traditionally, most gift cards have expired 12 months after purchase.

In 2018, the Federal Government introduced new laws regarding gift cards in an effort to further enhance the consumer protections already in place.

This new national regime provides for gift cards to have:

  • a minimum expiry period of three years; and
  • the expiry date clearly stated.

In addition to the above, the supplier of a gift card will be prohibited from charging what is called “post-supply fees”. These are fees that can cut into the balance of the card.

The good news is that this new national regime will soon take effect; just in time for the Christmas rush.

Any gift card supplied on or after November 1, 2019, will have to comply with the new laws.

Whilst the new laws were introduced in mid-2018, the government has allowed businesses a transition period up until November 1, 2019, which will assist with using up their stock of pre-printed cards with less than the new three year period. Some businesses have already transitioned over to the new lengthier expiry periods.

Until next week – 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.

Consumer laws and protections explained: Part 5

THE consumer laws (“ACL”) require that consumers be provided with certain guarantees for most consumer goods and services they purchase. These are separate to any store bought or issued warranty.

The guarantees are like a set of rules that come with the purchase of services or products and are designed to protect the consumer.

They cannot be restricted, excluded, limited or modified and any business that attempts to do so could face significant financial penalty.

With regards to the sale of goods, the ACL guarantees include (among other things) that the goods:

  • will be of an acceptable quality;
  • will be reasonably fit for the purpose the business told you they would be fit for or you otherwise made known to the business prior to purchasing;
  • if sold by description, will comply with that description.

Generally, if the goods do not comply with the guarantees the consumer will have rights available, such as repair, replacement, refund, and/or compensation for further financial loss.

Of course, each case will be fact specific and there will be circumstances that are not covered by the guarantees, for example, you simply change your mind, you caused the problem (e.g. you broke it), you purchased the goods from a private seller and not a business in trade or commerce.

Next week I will tell you about the changes to the ACL regarding gift cards and vouchers that will soon come into effect (in time for Christmas!)

Until next week – 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.

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.

Misleading and deceptive conduct is against the law

THE consumer laws (ACL) provide various protections and set standards of business conduct in commercial transactions.

Chapter 2 deals with standards of business conduct aimed at protecting consumers, including a general prohibition on engaging in misleading or deceptive conduct and unconscionable conduct. There are also unfair contract term protections for consumer contracts.

Section 18 of the ACL prohibits misleading or deceptive conduct and captures both conduct that is, or is likely to, mislead or deceive. The scope is therefore quite extensive, capturing both intentional and unintentional acts and sets a high standard of conduct in commercial transactions.

There are penalties for breaching the prohibition and businesses also leave themselves open to legal claims for damages.

The highest penalty in Australia for engaging in misleading conduct was made in late 2016. It relates to the misleading packaging of Nurofen pain products, which referred to the medication targeting specific pains. You may recall previously seeing Nurofen for “back pain” or “knee pain” on the shelves and wondered why the Nurofen packaging reverted to non-specific pain areas.

Despite the different specific pains packaging, the Nurofen tablets all had the same type and amount of active ingredients. The company responsible was fined $6 million. Interestingly, the company was initially fined $1.7 million, but on appeal to the full Federal Court the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission successfully had the penalty increased to $6 million.

Until next week – 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.

Single touch payroll

Single Touch Payroll is a way of sending tax and super information to the ATO from your payroll or accounting software each time you pay your employees.

When you start using STP software:

  • you will run your payroll, pay your employees as normal, and give them a payslip
  • your pay cycle does not need to change (you continue to pay your employees weekly, fortnightly or monthly)
  • your STP-enabled payroll software will send the ATO a report which includes the information they need, such as salaries and wages, pay as you go (PAYG) withholding and super information

You will be reporting super liability information through STP for the first time. Super funds will also report to the ATO. They will advise the ATO when you make the payment to your employees’ chosen fund. This is important to make sure employees are paid their correct entitlements.

Employers with 20+ employees (large employers)

STP became mandatory on 1 July 2018 for large employers with 20 or more employees. You should already be reporting through STP, or have a deferral in place.

If you have more than 20 employees and do not have your STP activated, please contact us to review your current payroll software to ensure ongoing compliance.

Employers with 5-19 employees (small employers)

Small employers must start STP reporting from 1 July – 30 September 2019. If you use payroll software which offers STP, you can update your product and start reporting any time. If you won’t be ready to start reporting before 30 September 2019, you will need to apply for a deferral. The ATO’s form is available as an online pdf, contact us if you need assistance.

Employers with 1-4 employees (micro employers)

If you have four or less employees you must start STP reporting any time from 1 July – 30 September 2019, however you will have two options.

Option 1: Use a compliant payroll software. The ATO strongly recommends that you upgrade or subscribe to STP compliant online accounting software, which will have the added benefit of streamlining your bookkeeping requirements.

Option 2: To engage P+Y to report your STP data to the ATO on a monthly or quarterly basis. This service will be an additional charge to you and is only available until 30 June 2021, after which date you must use compliant payroll software.

 Single Touch Payroll for employees

The way employers report your tax and super information to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) is changing.

This reporting change is called Single Touch Payroll (STP) and it applied to employers who have 20 or more employees from 1 July 2018 and will apply to smaller employers (those with 19 or fewer) from 1 July 2019.

If your employer reports through STP, they will send the ATO your tax and super information each time they pay you. Don’t worry; you’ll still be paid the same way. However, there will be some changes for you.

Nicholas Pender

Glimpse into our future

Latest impressions of CBD redevelopment.

IPSWICH residents have been given a fresh perspective on the CBD redevelopment with the release of new drawings of the Nicholas St precinct.

The Queensland Times 11th June 2019

Newly released drawings of the Nicholas St precinct development give a fresh perspective on how the area will look and feel once finished.

The drawings illustrate the development from street level.

Last week, Ipswich City Council announced Hutchinson Builders as the preferred tenderer to construct a new council building, library and civic plaza at the end of Nicholas St. The $140 million contract, when formally awarded, will be the biggest in the history of the Ipswich City Council.

As part of the announcement, three advanced drawings were released and another five have now followed.

Hutchinson will also upgrade the existing carpark, finalise works on Nicholas St and Union Place, and ensure Bremer St traffic ramps are ready to go.

Work had already started on Nicholas St but the contract concerned the biggest components of the project.

Council administrator Greg Chemello said council officers will spend the next several weeks finalising the design with Hutchinson Builders.

“(Council officers will be) going through every aspect of the project to ensure ratepayers get the best value possible,” he said.

“I acknowledge that this has been a long time coming, but it was important to ensure that all issues were addressed so that the Ipswich Central redevelopment can finally become a reality.”

Nicholas St roadworks are set for completion by Easter next year, the new library is expected to be open by mid-2020 and the council administration centre by mid-2021.

The Queensland Times 11th June 2019

Consumer laws and protections

LAST week’s article briefly introduced the consumer laws – the ACL. Over the coming weeks I will share information about the ACL, how it operates and how it protects consumers.

While there are legal protections and guarantees relating specifically to financial products and services also, these are covered under the Australian Securities and Investments Commission Act 2001, (regulated by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission).

The topic of financial products and services specifically is outside the scope of this article series.

There is free information on the ACL available for members of the community – for example, on the website of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) or Queensland Office of Fair Trading (OFT). OFT has a small business self-assessment checklist to help businesses comply with the ACL and Legal Aid also has a guide titled “Consumer and Trader Disputes”.

The resources are very informative, but keep in mind most are designed to explain the ACL in plain language and are not a substitute for the legislation or legal advice.

The regulators of the ACL are the ACCC and OFT.

Disputes that cannot be resolved informally may be determined by the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal or a court, depending on various factors.

The ACL provides guarantees and rights to consumers, which cannot be excluded/limited. It also prohibits certain behaviours by businesses and sets standards of conduct, which we will start to look at next week.

Until next week – 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.