Landowners should be aware that as consumers of goods and services they have rights that are protected under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL). The ACL is the national law for fair trading and consumer protection.
The ACL includes:
- a national unfair contract terms law covering standard form consumer and small business contracts;
- a national law guaranteeing consumer rights when buying goods and services;
- a national product safety law and enforcement system;
- a national law for unsolicited consumer agreements covering door-to-door sales and telephone sales;
- simple national rules for lay-by agreements; and
- penalties, enforcement powers and consumer redress options.
Under the ACL companies, such as resource companies, in the supply of goods or services, must not:
- engage in unconscionable conduct; or
- engage in conduct that is misleading or deceptive or likely to mislead or deceive.
As a general principle these requirements apply to mining companies in the negotiation of access and compensation agreements with landowners.
Examples of misleading, deceptive or unconscionable conduct might include:
- incorrectly explaining or failing to explain key terms of an agreement to a landowner;
- not properly disclosing the potential impacts of an exploration or mining activity to a landowner; or
- suggesting a landowner does not need legal advice about a Conduct and Compensation Agreement.
Remedies for breaches of the ACL include:
- damages and compensation;
- orders modifying or declaring void part or all of an existing agreement.
If you or others you know believe they may have been the subject of unconscionable or misleading and deceptive conduct in the past, seek legal advice.
Be aware of the ACL in all dealings with resource companies. Resource companies are required to act honestly and fairly in their dealings with landowners at all times.