26 September 2023

Agency urges action on unfair contracts

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Consumer Protection has called on members of the community who think they may have encountered an unfair contract to find out if their arrangement is legal.

Commissioner for Consumer Protection, Trish Blake said every time a person bought a product, booked a holiday, topped up their phone credit or hired a tradesperson, they were entering into a legally-binding agreement that came with its own terms and conditions.

“Sometimes you may have the chance to negotiate before you agree,” Ms Blake said.

“However, it is more common for consumers to be offered a ‘standard form contract’, which is the same as those offered to everyone else on a ‘take it or leave it’ basis,” she said.

“If one of the terms seems unreasonable, then it’s worth knowing that the Australian Consumer Law protects consumers from standard form agreements that would result in a significant imbalance of rights between the business and consumer.”

Ms Blake said that, recently, the Supreme Court ordered a Perth landlord to stop using short-stay accommodation contracts containing terms that were weighted strongly in his favour and left renters facing considerable detriment.

“Some of the unfair terms included non-refundable deposits, rent and bonds if bookings were cancelled at any time; forfeiture of the bond and rent in advance if other people stayed in the accommodation; and credit card authority to deduct repair and cleaning costs in excess of the retained bond,” she said.

“The Supreme Court effectively struck out those unfair clauses in the contracts and ordered him to pay costs of $5,000, plus $1,500 to one of his renters left out of pocket.”

Ms Blake said in the wake of this outcome, Consumer Protection was urging holiday and short-stay accommodation providers to review their current contracts to ensure they were fair and balanced.

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