Report on the 14th IACL Conference

Sydney turned from weeks of rain to beautiful winter sun to welcome the 14th biennial conference of the International Association of Consumer Law at the University of Sydney.

The theme of the conference was diversity and it lived up to this. There were 66 papers from 16 countries. This does not include the plenary sessions. The conference was opened by the Deputy Vice Chancellor of the University of Sydney who explained the spiritual significance of the land and welcomed visitors to a place of gathering for ceremonies and learning for thousands of years.

The President of the Association, Vice chancellor Sothi Rachagan spoke on financial services and the disparities between the banked and unbanked world.

The Opening address by our guest, The Hon Justice S Rares was a lively account of some early fetters on freedom of contract and a critique of the multitude of overlapping statutory protections in current consumer law in Australia.

This was followed by another plenary panel. This was a presentation of research undertaken by the Consumer Action Law Centre to assess the performance of federal and state regulators in taking enforcement measures and a subsequent discussion involving four senior Australian regulators. The next day in another plenary session three Ombudsmen addressed the conference outlining their role and the volume and type of complaints they deal with. In the afternoon at the final plenary session three regulators outlined how the new Australian consumer law is administered and the nature of cooperation between the states which ensures for instance that travelling scammers are tracked from state to state and local communities warned through the media.

The Brazilian Consul General briefly addressed the conference on the importance of the Brazilian proposal for a convention on the international protection of tourists.

There was much sharing of information, proposals for reform, and cross fertilisation of ideas between delegates who came from every continent and included academics, representatives of consumer organisations, representatives of regulatory agencies, other ombudsmen, and judges.

The speaker at the conference dinner is one of the stars of the Australian Broadcasting Commission television program The Checkout. This is a comedy program with a serious consumer affairs message. Several delegates from different countries now intend to use utube segments from The Checkout in their teaching.

The conference supported a statement sent to it from the International Law Association Committee on the International Protection of Tourists as Consumers.

“The International Association of Consumer Law [or the IACL-members], on the occasion of the 14th Biannual Conference at the University of Sydney, expresses strong support for the Brazilian Government’s Proposal to add to the working agenda of the Hague Conference on Private International Law the subject of the protection of international tourists as consumers. The Brazilian Proposal to create a global cooperation network on the subject has every chance of success and the IACL wants to compliment this effort to facilitate the protection of international tourists as consumers.”

Those members of the IACL Board who were present at the conference met. This followed email exchange with other Board members. There was a general meeting of the IACL.

It was agreed that the governance structure of the Association should be changed to include an Advisory Panel and a Board. The Advisory Panel should consist of the founding members of the conference and Past Presidents. It is desirable that at least one past President should remain on the Board.

It is envisaged the Advisory Panel will be Antonio Benjamin, Thierry Bourgoine, Geraint Howells, Sothi Rachagan, Iain Ramsay, Thomas Wilhelmsson

The Board thanks the following for their valued contributions to the Association:

Gabriel Stiglitz – who has stepped down for Sebastián Barocelli with the aim of reviving Argentinian participation. Peter Rott who said he is happy to stand down to make way for Marco Loos. Allen Zysblatt is retired and happy to stand down. There does not appear to be anyone from the immediate region to take his place at present.