The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is an independent Commonwealth statutory authority whose role is to enforce the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 and a range of additional legislation, promoting competition, fair trading and regulating national infrastructure for the benefit of all Australians.
The Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (CCA) covers most areas of the market: the relationships between suppliers, wholesalers, retailers, and consumers. Its purpose is to enhance the welfare of Australians by promoting fair trading and competition, and through the provision of consumer protections.
Schedule 2 of the Australian Consumer Law deals with misleading or deceptive conduct. It covers unconscionable conduct, unfair practices, conditions and warranties, product safety and information, liability of manufacturers for goods with safety defects offences, country of origin representations.
The law is in place to protect consumers from being misled about the products and services they buy. Businesses are not allowed to make statements that are incorrect or likely to create a false impression. This applies to their advertising, their product packaging, and any information provided by their staff or online shopping services. It also applies to any statements made by businesses in the media or online, such as testimonials on their websites or social media pages.
It makes no difference whether the business intended to mislead a consumer or not. If the overall impression left by a business’s advertisement, promotion, quotation, statement or other representation creates a misleading impression in a consumer’s mind—such as to the price, value or the quality of any goods and services—then the behaviour is likely to breach the law.
There is one exception to this rule. Sometimes businesses may use wildly exaggerated or vague claims about a product or service that no one could possibly treat seriously or find misleading. For example, a restaurant claims they have the ‘best steaks on earth’. These types of claims are known as ‘puffery’ and are not considered misleading.
More information is available on the ACCC website (link is external).