The Trade Practices Act 1974 ("TPA") is a Commonwealth Act of Parliament that regulates unfair practices in commerce. Its chief purpose is to protect consumers and the public in matters of trade and commerce.
Due to constitutional limits placed on the Commonwealth, the TPA will generally only apply to Corporations (i.e companies and bodies corporate) and not individuals or businesses. However, each State has enacted similar legislation in the Fair Trading Acts.
The TPA and FTA deal specifically with various unfair practices relating to consumer protection (i.e misleading and deceptive conduct, implied terms in contracts for the sale of goods).
In addition to the consumer protection regulations, the TPA deals exclusively with the following unfair practices:
product liability (regulation of financial markets eg insurance); and
anti competitive conduct (eg monopolies, cartels and contrived arrangements, understandings or contracts that have the purpose of restricting competition in the market place).
Companies should be particularly careful when entering into a contract, arrangement or understanding with another company regarding:
restriction on selling certain items (i.e only selling items in a particular area)
as they could potentially risk breaching the TPA. Substantial penalties apply to a Company in breach, and also to individual Directors and company officers.
The TPA is regulated by "the consumer watchdog" the ACCC (Aust.Competition and Consumer Commission) and the FTA is regulated by the State's Office of Fair Trading. Visit their respective websites http://www.accc.gov.au/ and http://www.fairtrading.qld.gov.au/ for further information and forms for complaints.
More information can be obtained from solicitor Gemma Robson Ll.B of McCarthy Durie Lawyers, Cleveland and Capalaba. Contact Gemma on t +61 7 3370 5100 (www.mdl.com.au)