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Information for consumers and businesses affected by COVID-19

Information about COVID-19 restrictions for consumers and businesses as well as licensees, associations and non-profits regulated by the Office of Fair Trading.

Your rights and responsibilities as a consumer:

Your rights and responsibilities as a business, licensee, association or not-for-profit:

Your rights and responsibilities as a consumer

Cancelled travel and events

You may not be entitled to a refund under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) if a business cancels travel (e.g. a flight or a cruise) or an event (e.g. concert, sporting fixture or theatre performance) because of a government ruling made after the goods or services were sold but before they are due to be provided.

You are also unlikely to be entitled to a refund under the ACL if you can no longer use other associated goods or services (e.g. accommodation, tours or car hire) because your travel has been cancelled under a government ruling made after you booked and paid. Read more about contracts.

You should contact the trader to see what remedy they can offer. Many traders have made public statements that they are helping their customers by giving full or partial refunds, credit notes or vouchers.

If you have paid by credit card and the trader does not provide a remedy, contact your bank and ask them to reverse the transaction.

If you have insurance, you should check the terms and conditions of your policy to see if your situation is covered. Contact the Australian Financial Complaints Authority for help and advice.

You can lodge a complaint if you have been affected by cancelling travel or an event because COVID-19, and you believe you are entitled to redress.

Price increases

You may notice that the price of basic goods (e.g. face masks or hand sanitiser) may increase during a disaster or health emergency. This is because it costs traders more to get goods into the shops to sell. For example, they may have:

  • to transport things from further afield or use different transportation methods meaning bigger fuel bills
  • less staff available and are paying overtime rates.

Prices also rise due to supply and demand. Prices may increase due to a shortage of goods and a greater demand. We can’t prevent or take action to stop price rises or falls, as we have no role in setting prices.

The ACL protects you from ‘unconscionable conduct’ by businesses. This is a statement or action that is so unreasonable that it defies good conscience (e.g. where the product is critical to the health or safety of vulnerable consumers).

Businesses must not act unconscionably when selling or supplying goods and services to you, or when supplying or getting goods and services to or from a business.

Excessive price increases during a disaster or health emergency are sometimes called price gouging or profiteering.

Ask the trader to explain if price increases seem excessive or unreasonable. You can lodge a complaint if you are not satisfied with their response. Give us as much information as you can, including:

  • trader name and location
  • a description of the goods and the price
  • copies of receipts
  • a photo of the sale sign.

Availability of ordered products

Imported goods may take longer to arrive in Australia due to delays in supply chains or additional checks to limit the possible spread of COVID-19.

Businesses cannot promise customers usual supply timeframes once they know that they can no longer be met, or are unlikely to be met. If they do so it is likely to be misrepresentation under the ACL.

If you find yourself in this situation, you can request a refund under the ACL, because goods need to be supplied within a ‘reasonable’ time. A ‘reasonable time’ will depend on the type of product.

However, if a business sold you goods before the supply chains were interrupted by changed government rules and then can’t supply them within the expected timeframe because of the rules, it is unlikely to be a breach of the ACL. Although you may still be entitled to a remedy. You should check the terms and conditions of your contract with the business to see what the situation is for your purchase.

We suggest you have understanding and patience during this unusual time, because many businesses are having to implement or change their sales processes and customer management policies and procedures at very short notice.

Talk to the business about your concerns and see if a remedy can be offered.

If the business fails to respond within a reasonable time, or if you believe the business is not providing a remedy you may be entitled to, you can lodge a complaint with us.

Read more about guarantees, warranties and refunds

Miracle cures

Some therapeutic goods (e.g. medicines or disinfectants) may be advertised or promoted to prevent or cure COVID-19 infections.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration regulates advertisements in Australia for goods claiming to prevent or cure COVID-19. If they include unsupported claims or restricted representations, then they are likely to be breaching these laws.

Be cautious when considering purchasing goods or services because of advertising claims. Speak to a health care professional if you have health concerns.

Scams

The spread of COVID-19 can bring on fear and anxiety for many people in the community. Unfortunately, scammers are taking advantage of the situation to exploit and play on these fears.

COVID-19 scams include:

  • fake online stores and/or social media accounts claiming to sell medical or health products such as cures or vaccinations for COVID-19 and face masks
  • phone calls where the scammer claims to be a relative needing money for medical treatment
  • phishing scams via email or text claiming to be from a bank or government organisation such as the Department of Health or the World Health Organisation, with links and/or attachments containing malware to get personal data
  • superannuation scams offering to help you access your account or check if you are eligible for various benefits or claiming you will be locked out of your account.

More information about COVID-19 scams are available from ScamWatch.

Protect yourself

It is important to stay vigilant and aware during these uncertain times. If you are worried about a phone call, email, social media post or text message, it is best not to respond or click on any links. Learn more about how to protect yourself against scams.

Report it

If you think you have been scammed, you can report it to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission on the ScamWatch website.

Fake charities

Scammers also use emergencies to pose as charity collectors, pretending to raise funds for people in need.

Queenslanders are known for their generosity and should not be put off donating. Instead, you should do your homework to make sure your donation will reach the groups you want to help. Read more about charity scams.

Weddings

COVID-19 restrictions for weddings and associated activities (e.g. receptions and photography) have been revoked. Read the latest Queensland Government updates.

Funerals

COVID-19 restrictions placed on funerals and associated activities (e.g. wakes) have been revoked. Read the latest Queensland Government updates.

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Your rights and responsibilities as a business, licensee, association or not-for-profit

Licences, audits and renewals

If you can't meet an Office of Fair Trading lodgment date (because of COVID-19 impacts), you may be eligible for extenuating circumstances provisions for renewal applications, trust account audits or annual returns.

Applications are assessed on a case-by-case basis. Email ilu@justice.qld.gov.au if you need an extension and one of our officers will contact you..

You can use our online form lodgment and payment portal to renew your licence. Available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can also login at any time to track the status of your licence or certificate renewal with us.

The following licences can renew online:

  • real estate salespersons
  • individual real estate agents
  • individual motor dealers
  • individual field agents
  • individual security providers.

Business advice on supply chain delays

Imported goods may take longer to arrive in Australia due to delays in supply chains or additional checks to limit the possible spread of COVID-19.

We understand that this is out of your control, but you must not take orders and promise customers usual supply timeframes if you know they can no longer or are unlikely to be met. To do so is considered misleading conduct under the ACL and significant penalties apply.

You should take reasonable precautions and exercise due diligence by making contingency plans to try to reduce the impact of this situation as much as you can. The ACL provides guarantees for products and services purchased in Australia and if you fail to meet your obligations to a consumer, they have the right to a remedy.

Read more about guarantees, warranties and refunds

Business recovery

Visit Business Queensland or call 1300 654 687 for more information about what help is available for small businesses.

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) may be able to help if you are having difficulties meeting your company obligations.

There are resources for industry and business to help manage COVID-19 in the workplace.

Travel industry

Read the best-practice guide helping the travel industry deal with COVID-19 related cancellations.

Developed by the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) regulators, including the Office of Fair Trading this guide relates mainly to situations where travel services have been cancelled because of COVID-19, rather than, for example, where travel services will still go ahead.

Incorporated associations, charities and not-for-profits

Queensland incorporated associations and registered charities have been impacted by COVID-19 restrictions.

The Associations Incorporation Act 1981 requires an association’s annual general meeting (AGM) to be held within 6 months of the end of their financial year.

The Act allows all associations to hold meetings by video conferencing if they wish, provided members can hear and take part in discussions as they happen. There is a provision in the Act (s.121) that allows the chief executive to grant an extension to an association for holding its AGM.

Any association which is unable to hold its AGM within the required time frame may apply for an extension in writing to registration.services@justice.qld.gov.au.

Chief Health Officer directions may change from time to time. When calling meetings, the management committee should be aware of any restrictions that may be in place at the time, for example, how many people can gather at the venue and the social distancing required. Learn more about the Chief Health Officer requirements.

It's important for associations to note that any extension provided by the Office of Fair Trading is only for AGM obligations under the Associations Incorporation Act. Some associations may have obligations under other laws, which will require them to hold their AGM within a certain time frame and/or that they lodge their financial statements by a certain date. For example, if an association has a gaming machine licence under the Gaming Machine Act 1991, they still need to lodge their audited financial statements with the Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation (OLGR) by the due date.

Debt collectors

Consumers and businesses may default on their debts as a result of things beyond their control. For example, business closures, unemployment, illnesses or other personal circumstances. This may lead to an increase in use of the services of a debt collector.

Consumer protection laws—including laws relevant to debt collection—are enforced by:

You should show flexibility when dealing with debtors who are vulnerable and experiencing financial hardship.

A flexible approach would include:

  • negotiating meaningful and sustainable payment arrangements with the debtor
  • allowing them to cover reasonable ongoing living expenses and
  • live in basic comfort to prevent impoverishment or humiliation.

Most people are honest and will want to meet their debt commitments if you give them a reasonable opportunity to do so. Learn more from the ACCC’s debt collection guidelines.

Queensland debt collectors must comply with specific rules. Field agents, debt collectors and sub-contractors must be licensed under the Debt Collectors (Field Agents and Collection Agents) Act 2014.

Unlicensed debt collecting, repossession and process serving work is against the law.

Learn more about these obligations and how to manage your debt collecting business.

Industry specific advice

COVID-19 restrictions have now been revoked for the following OFT regulated industries:

  • fitness industry
  • property agents
  • tattoo operators
  • funeral providers.

Read the latest Queensland Government updates.

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