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Australia has established strong trading ties with the world. One of the contributing factors to Australia’s success as a major supplier is its location in the Asia-Pacific region. Since the country has a lot of businesses, both locally and internationally, rules and regulations exist to ensure the protection and safety of domestic industries, consumers and the environment. For all of your business law questions, the best strategy is to retain a commercial lawyer in Sydney, but here is what you need to know about trading in Australia in a nutshell.

International Business Law Framework

The Australian Government is contributing to the development of Australian businesses regarding international trade. These regulations ensure that Australian citizens, whether they are consumers or business owners, are protected from harmful and dangerous goods imported from overseas.

Currently, there are six Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) between Australia and other countries. Eight more FTAs are currently under negotiation.

These Free Trade Agreements contain legally binding commitments by each member to loosen the restriction on access to their markets for goods, services and even investments. The purpose of these FTA’s is to help Australia become more globally competitive and to help our markets synchronise with those internationally.

Tariffs and Duties

Australia is committed to complying with the tariffs, tariff quotas, export subsidies and domestic support for products under the World Trade Organisation (WTO). As a WTO member, Australia has a commitment to reduce its domestic protectionism and move towards a more international trade model.

When importing products to Australia, it is a requirement that the products are declared. By declaring the goods, it enables the regulatory authorities to apply the appropriate types of classification.

It is a requirement that the importer makes a declaration to the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service, which also enforces import restrictions.

Import regulations

Being able to import goods internationally is part of the daily activities of businesses in Australia. However, it is not as simple as shipping the item from overseas. Any business that is considering importing should be well-informed regarding the government regulations, duty taxes, permits, quarantine and treatments that apply to imported goods.

If the imported goods do not meet the requirements stated above, they can be seized by the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection. You can check with a business lawyer in Sydney if there are any grey areas regarding the Import Regulations you need clarification on, to ensure that you are complying with all the relevant legislation.

Domestic Laws

What are Fair Trading Laws?

Fair Trading Laws exist to protect both the consumers and producers.

The Competition and Consumer Act

The Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (CCA) is the main federal law that ensures fair trading is observed for your business and your customers.

The CCA deals with unfair market practices, industry codes of practice, mergers and acquisitions of companies, product safety, collective bargaining, product labelling, price monitoring, and the regulation of industries, such as telecommunications, gas, electricity and airports. This act covers aspects of the marketplace such as the suppliers, wholesalers, retailers, competitors and customers.

In Australia, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission or the ACCC carries out the enforcement of the Competition and Consumer Act. The ACCC reinforces good business practices for a fair and efficient marketplace.

You can visit the ACCC website for more information on the federal competition, fair trading and consumer protection laws. If you want more specific advice then you can visit Executive Law Group, a law firm in Sydney who has expertise in the area of business law and can help you get a legal professional’s insights and assistance.

The Australian Consumer Law

The national Australian Consumer Law (ACL) came into effect on 1 January 2011. This means that if you run a business in Australia, or if you are planning to open one, you will be affected by the ACL.

No matter what industry you are working with, whether you work with customers, businesses, provide services or sell goods, knowing your rights and obligations is important. You should be aware of how consumer laws can affect your business.

What is the Australian Consumer Law?

The ACL has replaced 17 existing federal, state and territory consumer laws, which include:

  • Standards of business conduct.

  • Unfair contract laws.

  • Harmful business practices.

  • The regulation of specific types of business-to-consumer transactions.

  • Basic consumer rights for goods and services.

  • The regulation of consumer product safety.

Instead of having 17 individual laws, these rules and regulations are carried out and enforced jointly by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) along with the State and Territory consumer protection agencies.

Some examples of the ACL in action are as follows:

  • In the case that a customer asks for a receipt, you must provide it for free.

  • If your services and/or goods are worth more than $75 excluding GST, then you must provide your customer with a receipt.

  • Your receipts should have the following information:

    • Your business is identified as the supplier.

    • Your ABN and/or ACN.

    • The item or service that has been provided.

    • The date and price of the transaction.

    • In the case that the customer finds any problems with your goods and/or services, your customer has the right to request compensation. The compensation may result in a full refund.

What are Australian Business Standards?

A standard helps in specifying ways of doing business. Standards make sure that your products and services are safe, reliable and effective.

Standards are crucial in ensuring that the products and services provided in a business match the expectations of the customers. Not being able to provide what you are marketing can lead to some legal issues, make sure that you consult with a business lawyer in Sydney regarding the business laws in Australia to ensure that your business can run smoothly.

Benefits of using standards

Standards provide the following benefits:

  • Lessen legal risks by making sure that your products and services are safe for consumers to use.

  • Open up opportunities to access international markets.

  • Improve business performance and efficiency as you adopt best practice.

There are two types of standards:

Mandatory standards

As the name suggests, mandatory standards are compulsory standards that all businesses must follow if they want to operate within a particular industry or sell certain products. The mandatory standards may vary for different products and industries. In Australia, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is responsible for setting most mandatory standards.

Some mandatory standards include:

  • Safety standards for baby dummies.

  • Cosmetics ingredients labelling.

  • Tobacco health warnings.

Voluntary standards

A voluntary standard is not a legal requirement, but it is a representation of best practice in the market. These standards are decided by non-government bodies such as Standards Australia.

Some voluntary standards include:

  • Motorcycle helmet safety standard AS 1698-1988.

  • International Standard Book Number standard.

  • Fishing line breaking load standard AS 4470-1997.

  • Visit the ACCC’s page on mandatory standards to learn more.

Although voluntary standards are not legal requirements, it is possible that they may become compulsory under contract law or a mandatory standard.

Our law firm in Sydney can help you with any questions you have relating to your business law needs and we are only too happy to help. Don’t hesitate to reach out and contact us today.

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