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The Australian Government has released its Strategic Plan for Payments System: Consultation Paper. It is significant insofar as it demonstrates the current Government’s commitment to reform by creating a fit-for-purpose regulatory framework in respect of payments mirroring international developments. It is also significant in that the paper expressly states that the reform agenda includes implementing a tiered licensing framework for payment services providers. Interested parties are invited to comment on this consultation. Responses are due on 6 February 2022.

In May 2022, the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF) was launched between Australia, Brunei, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, the US and Vietnam. On account of its specified focus on labor standards and issues, IPEF is likely to have an ongoing impact on labor regulations and trends among partner countries, including Vietnam.

Following the Energy Ministers’ meeting on 8 December 2022 and the National Cabinet meeting on 9 December 2022, the Australian Commonwealth government announced that a new Capacity Investment Scheme (CIS) will be established, alongside other measures in the Energy Price Relief Plan.
The CIS is aimed at unlocking approximately AUD 10 billion in private and public sector investment in new clean dispatchable storage and generation to ensure reliability and security in Australia’s energy market, as well as affordable electricity supply and reduce Australia’s exposure to high coal and gas prices over the medium and long term.

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission has been strict in monitoring compliance with the new product design and distribution obligations (DDO), which were introduced on 5 October 2021. Under these DDO obligations, issuers are required to design financial products to meet consumer needs and distribute their products in a clearly-defined, targeted manner. To date, seventeen DDO interim stop orders have been issued by ASIC. Nine interim stop orders have been lifted after ASIC’s concerns were addressed by the entities or where the products were withdrawn, and six remain in place.

On 21 November 2022, the Treasury put out a call for submissions to assist with developing the Federal Government’s regulatory framework for buy now, pay later (BNPL) arrangements. The released options paper seeks to address the purported lack of oversight of the BNPL industry which has so far not been regulated in the same way as other forms of consumer credit under the National Consumer Credit Protection Act 2009. Pending stakeholder review, the paper seeks to strengthen the regulatory framework surrounding BNPL products and depending on the option adopted, may see them subject to the same regulations as credit cards or loan facilities.

The Treasury Laws Amendment (More Competition, Better Prices) Act 2022 received royal assent on 9 November and is now in force. Maximum penalties for contraventions of the CCA and ACL have significantly increased, effective immediately, exposing business to very substantial risk. The need for robust policies, systems and training to ensure compliance with the legislation has never been more important.

Directors of Australian companies face significant personal monetary – and potential criminal and adverse professional – consequences if they allow the company to trade whilst insolvent.
Australian insolvent trading laws are harsher, and more frequently utilized to prosecute directors personally, than in many other jurisdictions including in the US and the UK.