The New Australian Consumer Law: What About Consumer ADR?
AbstractAustralia maintains a complicated system for Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) of consumer disputes, due in part to jurisdiction over consumer affairs being shared between federal and state governments. This has allowed some experimentation involving diverse forms of consumer ADR. Some of these experiments may also provide inspiration for other industrialised democracies facing similar challenges in providing access to justice for consumers, such as Japan and the European Union. Yet the Australian system retains some gaps, and also a great deal of complexity. Alongside
their attempts to improve and harmonise other aspects of consumer law nation-wide, Australian politicians and officials should not neglect some problems already uncovered by recent reviews into aspects of consumer ADR. More thought and research is also needed regarding other possible problems in this field, so essential to bringing substantive consumer protections to life. The main aim of this article is therefore to provide a ‘state of the nation’ overview of Australia’s system for consumer ADR. It also focuses on an interesting but under-analysed initiative in one field of growing common interest: home building disputes. In surveying all these developments, the article touches on several specific problems that are or may be apparent in consumer ADR. Another aim is that Australia will also look beyond its shores in order to investigate or address such issues most effectively.
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