CONSUMER PRICING

REPORTER: LAURA SPARKES.

Now a good news story for consumers -- gone are the days that airfares, car yards and rental car companies can advertise one price but charge you a whole lot more. New legislation now means that the advertised price is the price you pay and some industries aren't happy with the changes.

"All we need is prices to affect broadly the real cost of the car because there are no other consumer goods with a 25 percent price hike between seeing the ad and taking the goods" says John Hart, CEO of the Restaurant and Catering Association.

"What it will mean is if you see a price in an ad, that will be the price it will be, no more hidden taxes and charges, no more misleading ads" says Chris Bowen, Federal Consumer Affairs Minister.

"If it achieved that objective that would be wonderful for everybody but it can't achieve its objective because there's no single price for everyone", CEO of the NSW Motor Traders Association James MCall

$19 Airfares - wrong.

$11,490 drive away - wrong.

Restaurant prices not including weekend surcharges - wrong.

Misleading, deceptive pricing that for years have sucked in all of us but not anymore. "It's a pretty fundamental principle, that people and consumers who are buying goods and services should know how much they're up for" Mr. Bowen said.

The laws have finally changed. "What I've been concerned about is that there have been a lot of ads which are in effect misleading consumers leading them up the garden path."

And from now on we won't see the fantastic $5 airfare deals, they never were really just five dollars. Under the new legislation all airfares must include taxes and charges. Accommodation packages, same deal. In fact any business advertising prices must follow these same guidelines. "It applies to representation in store, out of store, on the internet, print, catalogue, newspapers, TV ads, whatever it is, this law applies" says Mr. Bowen.

But not everyone is happy about the changes. John Hart says the law has simply been dumped on his industry without any of the 40,000 restaurants and cafes across the country being informed. "The reality is they haven't given us the opportunity to get out there and tell industry how they need to respond, and thats irresponsible, because that means they're not going to get compliance and they're not going to get businesses doing what they want to do its a failure all round" says John.

It means the steak that costs $28 during the week and $30.80 on weekends, because of a 10 percent surcharge,, will have to be priced exactly that on the actual weekend menu.

One group notorious for advertising misleading prices is the car industry. James MCall says, "It's going to make it worse because there can be a variation in the price of several thousand dollars depending who you are, whether you're a pensioner, TPI pension, whether its a commercial vehicle whether you're a charity, whether you're a local government -- all of these 27 variables will determine a difference in the price."

Already car yards are reacting but not in the way the federal government and Australian Competition and Consumer Commission had hoped - they're not advertising any price. "There are variables but it's really only a few hundred dollars maybe a 1000 dollars worth of variability broadly across the country." Motoring expert and Driveshow host John Cadogen says its time the car industry became responsible. "Car companies have enjoyed being in this position where they can advertise a recommended retail price that's so far below a reasonable expectation of what consumers ultimately pay for cars

Not anymore. "What you see now should be what you pay if the price says $24,990 then you are going to pay around $25,000" says John Cadogen.

Car company websites are complying by wiping car prices off their websites, some introducing a calculator system to take into account the variables but one company Mazda is yet to comply, still advertising a recommended retail price plus extras.

Consumers now have the power to report misleading advertised prices to the ACCC. If businesses don't comply they'll be criminally prosecuted. The maximum penalty is $1.1 million. "I have no doubt consumers feel they have been ripped off, that an ad has been misleading they'll be straight onto the ACCC, the ACCC will be monitoring ads, but consumers will and should contact the ACCC if they have concerns" says the Minister.