As an NDIS provider do you know your clients have consumer rights for the supports they purchase under Australian Consumer Law?
Just like regular businesses providing goods and services to consumers, businesses who provide goods and services to consumers with a disability have obligations under the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (CCA), referred to as Australian Consumer Law and the NDIS Code of Conduct. The consumer law provides a set of protections and obligations for any consumer transaction within Australia, including those through the NDIS.
Under the Australian Consumer Law, NDIS participants have the following rights when purchasing a product or service:
- the right to be treated fairly
- the right to be given accurate information before they buy
- the right to cancel a faulty service
- the right to purchase goods or services that are of acceptable quality, fit for purpose and match the description or sample provided to the consumer (consumer guarantees). When the consumer guarantees are not met consumers are entitled to a repair, replacement or refund depending on the severity of the failure.
These consumer rights apply to:
- general products (e.g. groceries, clothes and household items)
- disability related products (e.g. an assistive hearing device or mobility aids)
- services (e.g. accommodation, cleaning, cooking, personal care, gardening services or case management supports).
The ACCC have released resources to assist NDIS participants and providers understand consumer rights when selling and buying goods and services.
We recommend NDIS providers read the following Guide to competition and consumer law: for businesses selling to and supplying consumers with disability | ACCC to help understand their obligations under Australian Consumer Law (ACL).
Breaches of NDIS participants consumer rights are a key concern of relevant government agencies. On 22 January 2021, the ACCC, NDIA and the NDIS Commission jointly issued an open co-signed letter to NDIS providers. The letter was issued to remind NDIS providers (both registered and unregistered) of their obligations to consumers under both the ACL and the Code.
In the letter all agencies said that they were aware of a number of emerging consumer issues within the disability sector, with some NDIS providers not meeting their consumer protection obligations. Issues affecting vulnerable consumers are an enduring priority for the ACCC and they will not hesitate to take action when these laws are breached including serious financial penalties, court ordered corrective actions and reputational costs.
Some conduct that is in breach of the consumer law may also lead to action being taken by the NDIS Commission against a provider under the NDIS Code of Conduct. For example, ‘sharp practices’ are considered unethical and are discouraged under the NDIS Code of Conduct and may also constitute conduct that is considered misleading and in contravention of the consumer law. ‘Sharp practices’ refers to unfair treatment or taking advantage of people. Examples of this include:
- providing services or expending funds contrary to a person with disability’s approved plan
- asking for or accepting any additional fees for providing the service
- offering inducements or rewards that have no particular link to a person’s NDIS plan and that could be perceived to encourage people to take up or continue with your organisation or a particular service option, and
- engaging in high-pressure sales tactics.
The ACCC have also released a range of useful resources for NDIS participants in different formats to help them understand and use their consumer rights when they pay for a product or service themselves or through their state or territory’s disability support system, including complaints pathways. Consumers with disability | ACCC. We recommend you make your NDIS participants aware of these resources and their consumer rights.
If you would like to discuss any of the issues raised above or any other NDIS requirements that are impacting your business please contact us on 0478 616 207 or firstname.lastname@example.org for a complimentary consultation.