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Consumer law regulates the relationship between consumers, suppliers and manufacturers with the goal of promoting fair and efficient markets for the benefit of consumers. The various aims of consumer protection law include the following: to ensure consumers are provided with accurate information about the goods and services they choose to purchase, to mandate minimum standards of quality applying to the supply of goods and services, to preclude unfair/misleading market practices, and to prevent the exploitation of vulnerable members of the community.
Consumer protection law is primarily a legislative regime, drawing on both public and private law enforcement strategies. The regime builds upon common law principles, in particular those of contract, equity and torts, and modifies those principles to achieve overtly instrumental ends of addressing market failure and protecting consumer interests. In implementing and evaluating various forms of market intervention, consumer protection law draws on insights into products, markets and consumer behaviour from disciplines such as science, engineering, sociology and economics. Consumer law impacts on a wide range of areas of legal practice including commercial law, credit law, regulatory work and consumer/public interest advocacy.
This subject will provide students with specialised expertise in consumer protection objectives and strategies. Students will study in detail the consumer protection regime in Australia and compare that regime with consumer law developments in the European Union. Students will also study specialised theoretical and empirical work evaluating consumer protection law. Students will apply this body of knowledge and their own insights and expertise to assess the both regulatory regimes studied and the social and economic goals informing those regimes.
The following topics will be studied
- The policy objectives of consumer protection law;
- Consumer protection law and policy in the European Union and in Australia; and
- Regulatory strategies:
- Self regulation;
- The provision of information (for example, food labelling and price information); and
- The regulation of contracting, including issues of:
- Procedural fairness;
- Substantive fairness;
- Quality standards;
- The regulation of trade practices (for example door to door selling);
- Product safety; and
Intended learning outcomes
A student who has successfully completed this subject will have:
- An extended understanding of an advanced body of knowledge in respect to the policy objectives informing consumer law;
- An extended understanding of an advanced body of knowledge in respect to the role of and the limitations on private law doctrine (in particular, contract and torts law) in protecting consumers;
- A sophisticated appreciation of the interrelated political, economic and constitutional debates informing the nature of consumer protection regimes;
- Specialised knowledge of the different regulatory strategies for promoting consumer protection;
- An advanced understanding of recent developments in the consumer protection regime in Australia;
- An advanced comparative perspective on consumer protection law and policy in Australia and the United Kingdom;
- Specialised theoretical and empirical research tools for evaluating different consumer protection regimes; and
- Highly developed skills in applying this advanced knowledge of consumer law and policy to new market developments so as to be able to provide informed professional advice and to initiate new regulatory responses.
On completion of the subject students should have:
- Cognitive skills demonstrating mastery of theoretical knowledge of the scholarly, professional and regulatory debates about market regulation in the interests of promoting consumers and critical refection on this theory and its application to professional practice;
- Cognitive, technical and creative skills to investigate, analyse and synthesise complex information, problems, concepts and theories required in understanding the complex interaction between legislative and common law consumer protection regimes; and
- Cognitive, technical and creative skills to generate and evaluate complex ideas and recommendations for consumer protection policy and practice at an abstract level.
Last updated: 6 December 2019