Connections traversing oceans and spanning decades have played a key role in Professor Gail Pearson’s research. The years Gail spent studying history at a university in Delhi and undertaking fieldwork in Mumbai (“a long long time ago”) were invaluable to the success of a recent project there on consumer protection. So too Gail’s deep expertise as a preeminent scholar in the field of financial services and commercial and consumer law.
With a grant from the Australia-India Council, Gail worked with India’s Ministry of Consumer Affairs, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), and other organisations in both countries towards the new Central Consumer Protection Authority.
“In India, it has been about trying to convey the idea that if they have a policy problem or an issue, they should be thinking, ‘What are the Australians doing?’ Because we have terrific policy expertise in a whole range of areas.” As a “sophisticated and powerful country”, India also has a lot to offer Australia Gail believes.
The consumer protection project provided the ideal opportunity to advance a mutually beneficial relationship. Gail organised workshops and a round table at the High Commission in New Delhi, before a delegation from India that included a government Minister, travelled to Australia to visit organisations such as NSW Fair Trading, Consumer Affairs Victoria, Choice, Consumer Action Law Centre, ASIC, the ACCC, and to the University of Sydney.
The project linked to legislation that replaced the 1986 Act and was designed to incorporate new areas including misleading advertising and hazardous and unsafe goods and services, and the establishment of the protection authority that is accessible to consumers via a consumer complaints helpline.
Subsequently, the ACCC contracted Gail to work on reports into the status of consumer protection laws and agencies in ASEAN countries. She and a team of four from the University have aided the ACCC’s capacity building throughout ASEAN nations.
“The impact of an idea that you have and that you express in a learned article or something that then percolates for a long time, is very satisfying.”