Consumers protected against unfair contracts

Government fast tracks reforms to give all Australians protection.

CHOICE welcomes the fast tracking of unfair contract laws, which it says will give all Australians uniform protection from dodgy and unfair contracts, regardless of where they live.

The reforms announced by the Federal Government today will enforce consumers’ rights in quashing tricky contract terms and conditions. Victoria has already had the benefits of such legislation for some time.

The consumer group says it receives many complaints from consumers about unreasonable contracts across a range of areas, including home loans, gyms, car rentals and bank accounts.

“Unfair contract terms are ones that tip the scales by giving business an unfair advantage,” said senior policy officer Elissa Freeman. “We’re hopeful that under the new laws, Australian consumers are set to enjoy some of the best and fairest markets in the world.”

Unfair clauses in contracts exist across a range of industries. For example, a number of home loan contracts CHOICE reviewed gave the lender very broad rights to declare you in default of your contract.

In one case a lender reserves the right in their contract to declare you in default if you lose your job or the value of your property decreases.

“Consumer contracts can be riddled with complex, legalistic and often outright unfair clauses. It’s unrealistic to think individual consumers could negotiate these terms with loan providers,” said Elissa Freeman.

CHOICE also welcomes the new powers given to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), saying that while the ACCC did reasonably well in CHOICE’s review of 12 government regulators report that came out last year, greater enforcement power for the ACCC would ensure that businesses are kept on their toes.

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Unfair contracts

Proposed legislation will give consumers uniform protection from unfair contracts.

18 Feb 2009 | Currently most consumer contracts in Australia include non-negotiable terms and conditions. Sometimes these include unfair terms.


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