Sunday, October 08, 2017
More good news on the unfair contract front! But first some background.
Back around 2009, when we were talking to big businesses about having fair contracts, the chief legal counsel for one of the big banks said to us, “We’ll do what we’re made to do.” We realized then how difficult our campaign would be. But we succeeded. The new small business unfair contract laws we pushed for started at the end of 2016.
Well, now the banks are are doing what they’ve been made to do but, ‘butt’ has had to be kicked to achieve this. Look at NAB.
In March this year we exposed NAB lying (yes, lying) when it claimed that it had fixed its small business contracts to comply with the unfair contract laws. We said that the NAB had trashed its small business reputation. And the exposure of the NAB lie resulted in the banks being pushed into compliance by the regulators. In August the big four banks agreed to new, ‘fair’ small business contracts.
NAB has now taken an additional step. It has just announced simpler, shorter and plain English, ‘fair,’ standard form, small business contracts. Here’s its public relations blurb. The new contracts start on 16 October and don’t yet appear to be available. We’ve learnt to be careful and won’t comment until we study the new contracts. But if the contracts reflect NAB’s self-praising PR, they could deserve positive comment. We’ll let you know.
Do you rent a serviced office space?
Huge numbers of self-employed people rent serviced office space. One of the big players in the field is Servcorp. The ACCC is now taking Servcorp to Court over alleged unfair contract clauses. This will directly affect you if you use Servcorp’s services.
The ACCC alleges that clauses allowed Servcorp to, amongst other things:
- automatically renew a contract, and increase the price, without prior notice to the customer;
- unilaterally terminate a contract and impose penalty-type consequences on the customer;
- unreasonably limit Servcorp’s liability or impose unreasonable liability on the customer;
- unilaterally determine whether the contract had been breached; and
- acquire the customer’s property without any notice.
Good on you ACCC! This is in addition to the litigation against the waste disposal company JJ Richards.
What’s important is that as contracts are progressively cleaned up (it’s going to take a long time), the Australian economy will undergo major change. Small business people will have a fairer environment in which to operate. This will improve competition, entrepreneurship and make Australia a stronger, fairer society.