Institute of Certified Bookkeepers

Fair trading is a set of principles and laws that govern the professional and ethical behaviour of traders - this applies to consumers and dealings with other businesses. Offices of Fair Trading promote compliance with the state-based laws and in doing so, educate traders on their rights and responsibilities, as well as supporting them in fair and ethical practices.

One of the main concerns of Fair Trading is to minimise material and financial loss that consumers and other traders experience in the event that a trader fails to comply with Fair Trading laws.

Fair trading principles are applied in each state and cover such areas as guarantees, warranties, refunds, vouchers, contracts, promotions, telemarketing, product safety, and complaints.

Fair trading laws are in place to protect consumers and other traders from misleading, deceptive or unacceptable conduct that may detrimentally affect consumers and other traders.

Consumers and traders can seek advice if they believe they have been unfairly treated, mislead or been coaxed into an illegal contract or similar. If a consumer and / or trader has not been able to resolve the problem with the related parties, they can lodge a complaint with their state’s office of fair trading.

Complaints Process

  1. Discuss the Issue

    The state offices always recommend trying to resolve the issue first with the supplier in question.

    • Find out the relevant person to speak to about the issue—owner, manager or director
    • Explain clearly and succinctly the nature of the issue
    • Suggest a solution or resolution
    • Be reasonable in requests for action or information
    • Be polite and professional
  2. Lodge a formal complaint with the supplier directly
    • Many businesses have an internal complaints procedure that you should engage with first. This may resolve the issue
    • Check if there is an industry body or association that may be relevant to contact
  3. Lodge a complaint with Fair Trading
    • If the previous steps have not resulted in satisfactory results, pursue a formal complaint with your state’s office.
    • Some states’ fair trading offices have special complaints lines for different industries; for example, building, real estate and vehicles may all have their own complaints line.

Unfair Contract Terms

Unfair contract terms are a common cause for complaint to Fair Trading. Suppliers must ensure their contracts comply with contract law, and unfair contract terms laws. Unfair contract terms apply to consumer contracts, that is, the supply of goods or services to an individual.

These laws protect against terms that would cause significant detrimental effect on the consumer’s rights and obligations; would cause significant financial or other disadvantage or harm; allow the supplier to change the contract without approval; avoid liability; and more.

For complaints from one business about another business, it may be necessary to contact the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. Each state also offers business dispute support services. It may also be relevant to consider lodging a civil or small claim.

State Fair Trading Offices - for Consumers

Australian Small Business Commissioner

Civil Claims Information

  • Updated: 11th October, 2016
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