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Wednesday, 22 August 1984
Page: 180

(Question No. 753)

Senator Kilgariff asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home Affairs and Environment, upon notice, on 27 March 1984:

(1) What plans does the Government have to protect consumers from computer salesmen, who, in taking advantage of the dramatic developments in computer usage in industry, schools and the home, are operating unethically in order to make a quick dollar.

(2) What avenues are available for legitimate complainants to seek redress against a salesman or distributor who has literally not 'come up with the goods' or who has refused to provide after-sales service.

(3) What action will the Government take to combat the 'computer conman', if it is found there is insufficient control of the computer industry.

Senator Ryan —The Minister for Home Affairs and Environment has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) The Government considers that Parts V and VI of the Trade Practices Act 1974 already cover the rights of consumers to the limit of Commonwealth constitutional power, and proposed amendments to the Act which were announced in February 1984 will, if passed, extend the protection afforded to consumers. In addition State legislation operates to protect consumers from unethical conduct outside the area of Commonwealth power, and the Commonwealth and State Governments are working towards the introduction of uniform consumer protection legislation.

(2) In addition to contractual remedies available to consumers, the Trade Practices Act provides for sanctions and penalties to be imposed on corporations and certain individuals who fail to deliver goods or to provide after-sales service. The Act also gives consumers a private legal remedy in such cases. These provisions extend to the supply of computer hardware and software where it is supplied with hardware. The legal status of software is currently being examined.

(3) The Government continuously monitors the operation and effectiveness of the Trade Practices Act and will take remedial action should any deficiencies come to light. The nature and extent of any action would depend upon the circumstances of the alleged practices.