By Aimee Chanthadavong

With the passing of a national consumer law, which will come into effect from 1 January 2011, it is set to bring in broader protection for consumers, according to Queensland Fair Trade Minister Peter Lawlor.

The law is expected to cover the entire consumer protection spectrum from consumer guarantees and sales practices to product safety.

"Under the law, traders must guarantee that goods are safe, durable and free from defects; that they do the job; and that they match any description or demonstration," Lawlor said.

"If any goods or services fail to meet a guarantee, whoever sold them must fix the problem, regardless of whether they come with a warranty.

The Australian Consumer Law also details the type of information traders must give you when you're buying goods or services. They cannot be misleading or deceptive when marketing their products, nor can they rely on 'fine print' as an excuse for misleading or deceiving customers.

Speaking to Retailbiz, Gary Black, National Retailers Association (NRA) executive director, has also welcomed the change.

“It’s a fairly complex exercise but for the national chain of retailers that operate across different jurisdictions, the harmonising of these laws is a positive development,” he said.

“The expectation is that there won’t be too many major surprising changes. There are areas where retailers will need to be weary of in terms of mandatory reporting on product safety. This is the that law requires retailers to notify the regulator within two days that a product may be found unsafe,

“The other area is warranties and return where consumers haven’t always properly had rights. Retailers may need to adapt to current in-house policies in dealing with the consent of defective products and make a decision whether it needs to be repaired ot the consumer is entitled to a refund or replacement.”

Additionally, Fair Trading will have more enforcement powers under the new law and larger penalties will apply to retailers who the break the law. Maximum penalties for breaching fair trading rules will increase from $270,000 to $1.1 million for companies and $54,000 to $220,000 for individuals.