Lawbook

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The Law Handbook
Your Practical Guide to the Law in New South Wales

11th edition

Contracts

12
Author Carolyn Penfold, UNSW, Sydney

The information contained in this document is as up-to-date and as accurate as possible at time of publication in August 2009.

340 The Law Handbook A consumer is a person who acquires goods or services for personal or household use. We are all consumers. Most consumer dealings, whatever their size, cost or importance, are based on a contract. The basic principles of contract law are discussed in this chapter. These apply to purely commercial transactions (such as between a manufacturing business and its supplier), as well as transactions where one of the parties is a consumer.

The
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The most important general consumer protection laws, including the federal Trade Practices Act 1974 and the NSW Fair Trading Act 1987, as well as more specific consumer protection legislation (such as the NSW Motor Dealers Act), are discussed in chapter 11, Consumers

Modern consumer issues
These days the assumption that contracts are freely made by equal parties no longer applies in the consumer context. Unequal bargaining power In the modern marketplace most consumer goods and services are manufactured, marketed and sold by large businesses with access to expertise and resources far greater than those available to the ordinary consumer. There is usually a marked inequality of bargaining power between the parties,

The careful consumer
Avoiding problems is better than trying to fix them. Problems can often be avoided by taking a few practical steps: • thinking about what you want the product to do • seeking advice or having an expert check the product • shopping around for the best deal, comparing quality and price • inspecting goods carefully. A good source of information is Choice magazine, published by the Australian Consumers’ Association.

Read before you sign
Consumers should also be careful about signing documents (whether described as contracts, offer forms, order forms, authorisations or whatever) without reading them and, if in doubt, getting advice about them. Although consumer protection laws can assist
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