Diversity in consumer law around the world

1 July 2013

An international consumer law conference at the University of Sydney from 2 to 4 July will cover a broad spectrum of issues from protecting the consumer rights of tourists around the world, to consumerism's impact on children, the innovative treatment of class actions in Brazil, how Aboriginal communities around the world are affected by consumer culture, and Islamic finance.

The 14th conference of the International Association of Consumer Law (IACL) will bring together leading minds in consumer law from every continent on the globe with experts from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), the International Association of Consumer Law, the International Law Association, the Australian Federal Court and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC).

With the theme 'diversity' - of consumers, products and regulatory techniques - the conference is recognised as a summit for cutting-edge thinking on consumer credit, and will include panels on a range of issues from bank abuses, to data protection, to consumer behaviour. This is the first time the conference has been held in Australia.

"The relationship between business and the public impacts every segment of the population, hence the importance of consumer law," says Professor Gail Pearson, Chair of the conference and Vice-President of the International Association of Consumer Law.

"In this era of cross-border transactions, the conference highlights the need for a new international consumer law regime to give effective protection to tourists and all digital consumers. The European Union has moved in this direction, and we in the Indo Pacific need to follow their lead to be more proactive in the area."

Kirsten Drysdale, star of the popular ABC TV series The Checkout, will speak at the event, joining hosts of plenary sessions including Justice Steven Rares of the Federal Court of Australia, the Deputy Chairs of the ACCC and ASIC, commissioners from the State Fair Trading and Consumer Affairs bodies, and Ombudsmen from the financial, energy and water, and telecommunications industries.

The conference will explore the extensive recent changes to Australian Consumer Law, with panels on how the changes affect interest groups such as students, how Australian unfair terms legislation fits within a global context, and whether Australia effectively manages consumer guarantees.

Patty Kamvounias, from the University of Sydney Business School, will present on the role of consumer protection in higher education, and how the legal relationship between students and universities has changed since the Australian Consumer Law was revised in 2011.

"In recent years, changes to government policies and approaches to higher education have resulted in a rapid expansion of the sector. Massive changes in the industry have attracted criticism and review from a range of perspectives and disciplines, but little attention has been given to the legal consequences of positioning students as customers or consumers," Kamvounias says.

Other speakers from the University of Sydney include Professor Luke Nottage, Sydney Law School, who will discuss parallels and contrasts with consumer law reform in Australia and New Zealand, and Mary Wyburn, University of Sydney Business School, on Australia's debt agreement framework.

Sixty-five presentations will be given over the three-day conference, which closes on Thursday 4 July. It is expected that more than 120 delegates will come from countries as diverse as Finland, the Netherlands, Nepal, South Africa, and Sudan.

Media are invited to attend the event.

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