What are the laws in relation to misleading representation and the sale of land?

Published in: July 2016

Section 30(1) of the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) proscribes that a person in a trade or commerce in connexion with the sale or grant, or the possible sale or grant of an interest in land, or in connection with the promotion by any means of the sale or grant in an interest in land, make false or misleading representations concerning:


  • sponsorship, approval or affiliation; or
  • the nature of the interest in the land; or
  • the price payable for the land; or
  • the location of the land; or
  • the characteristics of the land; or
  • the use to which the land is capable of being put or may be lawfully put; or
  • the existence of availability of facilities associated with the land.


Turning to case law regarding false or misleading representations in connection with the sale or grant of land, the matter of Pryor v Given (1979) 24 ALR 442; (1980) 30 ALR 189 (FC) can shed some light as to the approach by the court.

The matter of Pryor v Given was an appeal to the Federal Court of Australia regarding a decision under s 53A(1)(b) of the former Trade Practices Act 1974 (the TPA) in which the appellant was convicted of making misleading statements in the sale of land. The basis for initiating legal action centred around  advertisements for the sale of land in various media that included the words “a wonderful place to live” and “watch it grow”, with the ads also including a pictorial representation of a number of houses. 

The court in Pryor v Given looked at the advertisements as a whole, that took into account both the words and pictures and found that a representation was made by the appellants that houses could be built on the land when in fact, the land was subject to a planning scheme requiring special approval from the responsible authority, and furthermore, potential purchasers were also subject to onerous conditions. The court held that anyone who saw the advertisements could only come to the conclusion that houses could be built on the land in question.

Ultimately, the court found that the appellant had engaged in a misleading representation concerning the use of the land contravening s 53A(1)(b) of the TPA, which was a precursor to s 30(1)(f) of the ACL.

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