Faculty of Law

Consumer Research Unit


The Consumer Research Unit (CRU) provides an independent voice on consumer issues.

The CRU aims to improve the understanding of consumer markets and consumer protection frameworks. CRU Members contrubite to the national and international dialogue on consumer issues through research and publication
The Unit offers short courses and workshops in current consumer law issues.

Recent and upcoming events

Statutory Unconscionability in Australia (Federation Press 2016)

A new book, Statutory Unconscionability in Australia, by CRU member Eileen Webb will be published by Federation Press in 2016. The book will examine the development of statutory unconscionability in Australia, the present state of the authorities and discuss the application of the provisions to particular scenarios, for example retail leasing, franchising and small business lending. The book will also consider the interaction between the unconscionability and the unfair contract terms provisions in the Australian Consumer Law and examine other statutory prohibitions regulating unfair conduct.

nullInternational and Comparative Law on the Rights of Older Persons

Eileen Webb (CRU) and Teresa Somes (Faculty of Law, UTS) co-authored a chapter: What role for the law in regulating older peoples’ property and financial arrangements with adult children? The case of family accommodation arrangements’ in Reubner, Do and Taylor (eds) International and Comparative Law on the Rights of Older Persons. The book was a collection of papers from the 2014 Braun Elder Law Conference in Chicago and was published by Vandeplas Publishing.

UWA Research Week 2015

How long could you live?
nullEileen Webb joined a panel of experts in an insightful discussion and Q&A that explored the bounds and implications of increasing longevity. The panel discussed questions such as:

  • What can we do to ensure quality of life as we age?
  • Can we afford to live longer?
  • How are we tackling our most common killers and causes of disability?
  • What will our homes and communities look like when living to over 100 is the norm?

The panel discussion, chaired by Professor Carmen Lawrence, was a flagship event for UWA alumni for Research Week 2015 and was attended by in excess of 350 people. The panel discussion was followed by refreshments and further discussion.

nullLaunch of Security of Tenure for the Ageing Western Australian Population Report

The CRU hosted the launch of its most recent report, Security of Tenure for the Ageing Western Australian Population. The report was prepared for COTAWA and was funded by LotteriesWA.
The launch was held at the University Club and was attended by 100 guests. Mr Ken Marston, CEO COTAWA introduced the morning’s program followed by some thought-provoking words about Seniors accommodation issues from COTAWA Chairperson Judy Hogben. Professor Frank Morgan then welcomed the guests on behalf of the Law School.
The report: http://www.cotawa.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/121975_Housing-Report-text.pdf received a considerable amount of media attention and will be the subject of further publications and forums. 

Past events

Publication of Consumer Law and Policy in Australia and New Zealand – Federation Press

Three members of the Consumer Research Unit: Aviva Freilich, Nyuk Nahan and Eileen Webb are among 14 Consumer Law experts invited to contribute to Consumer Policy in Australia and New Zealand. This book, edited by Professors Luke Nottage (Faculty of Law, The University of Sydney) and Justin Malbon (Faculty of Law (Monash University), provides an advanced and wide-ranging analysis of current consumer law issues.

In summary, the publication examines the ‘Australian Consumer Law’ reform package in a broad context and compares it to recent reform initiatives especially in New Zealand. It considers consumer law developments in other economies including the European Union, Japan, Canada and the United States, as well as parallel re-regulation of consumer credit and other financial markets impacting on consumers. The book also examines policy considerations and market transformations, as well as the often complex legislative history associated with recent consumer law reform proposals in Australia and New Zealand. Specific areas covered include: definitions of ‘consumers’, comparative consumer law reform, statutory guarantees and controls over unfair terms in consumer contracts, regulation of unconscionable conduct, a possible general prohibition of ‘unfair practices’, product liability and safety regulation, responsible lending and ‘hardship’ provisions for consumer credit, consumer banking and financial advice, protections for vulnerable consumers, interest rate caps, dispute resolution, regulatory powers and e-commerce.

For more details see Federation Press

Roundtable  Forum: Health Wealth and Hearth: Perspectives on an Ageing Australia

The Consumer Research Unit, hosted a multidisciplinary round table titled Health, Wealth and Hearth: Perspectives on an Ageing Australia. The round table was supported by the Institute of Advanced Studies, UWA. The round table brought together experts and practitioners with a specialization in seniors medical, financial and housing issues and concerns.

Guest presenters included Professor Norah Keating, (University of Alberta) and Professor Lorna Fox-O'Mahoney (Durham University). Associated with the roundtable were a public lecture by Professor Norah Keating titled: Friendly for Whom? Rethinking aged friendly communities. (LINK) The lecture was extremely well attended with attendees filling the Webb Lecture Theatre. Professor Lorna Fox O’Mahony  presented a Masterclass: Ageing, Inequalities, and (Financial)Vulnerabilities (LINK) that was attended by post graduate students from a variety of disciplines. Again this event was very well attended with the maximum of 25 places taken up a week before the Masterclass.

Research News

Eileen Webb has recently published several articles in The Conversation.

Research Projects

Single ageing women and housing security: A pilot project in the cities of Unley and Salisbury, Office for the Ageing, SA Department of Health (A joint collaboration headed up by UniSA, with input from Flinders University and UWA researchers)

Externally led WUN (The University of Sydney), Global initiative promoting meaningful engagement of persons ageing in supported living environments, Worldwide Universities Network, 2014

Seniors downsizing on their own terms: overcoming planning, legal and policy impediments to the creation of alternative retirement communities.

The Consumer Research Unit is undertaking research, funded by a National Seniors Australia Productive Ageing Grant, to determine whether more Seniors would choose to downsize if there was a greater variety of housing options available within existing communities. The research seeks to determine ‘what seniors want’ and get their thoughts on new housing concepts, for example pocket communities, that are starting to emerge.  

Do WA's housing laws support our ageing population?
The Consumer Research Unit and Council of the Ageing WA received $225,000 funding from Lotterywest to undertake the research.
Chief investigator Associate Professor Eileen Webb, from UWA Law School's Consumer Research Unit, said researchers would talk to seniors, carers, agencies and other stakeholders to identify housing and other accommodation-related issues. 

For further information about the project visit the webpage.  The research project findings will be released in mid 2014.

Seniors housing in rural and regional Western Australia and Alberta
This ongoing research examines the distinctive housing concerns impacting on seniors in rural and regional areas in Western Australia and Alberta.  In conjunction with the Faculty of Human Ecology, University of Alberta, Consumer Research Unit researchers will engage in a comparison between housing and accommodation laws in the two jurisdictions.

Research Publications