NatRoad Media Release: Unfair Contract Law Changes Welcomed

Contract terms

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The National Road Transport Association (NatRoad) welcomes yesterday’s statement by federal Assistant Treasurer, the Hon Michael Sukkar, that all Australian governments have agreed to strengthen protections for consumers and small businesses from unfair contract terms.

Whilst the current unfair contract laws have been a big help in making transport contracts fairer (with the ACCC taking several test cases that relate to transport contracts) the law is deficient. It falls well short of introducing a general prohibition against unfair conduct, practices that have been fuelled by COVID-19.

“NatRoad has for some time called for the introduction of a general prohibition against unfair practices. The current practice of some customers expecting transport operators to accept substandard and unfair contracts must be addressed,” said Mr Warren Clark, NatRoad Chief Executive Officer.

It seems NatRoad’s policy position has been adopted with the Commonwealth and state and territory governments having agreed to strengthen existing unfair contract term protections in the Australian Consumer Law, by:

  • making unfair terms unlawful and giving courts the power to impose a civil penalty;
  • expanding the definition of small business and removing the requirement for a contract to be below a certain threshold; and
  • improving clarity on when the protections apply, including on what is a ‘standard form contract’.

“NatRoad looks forward to commenting on draft legislation so that we can contribute further to the development of the law in this area.

“The mindset of some customers must change so that safety and fairness are advanced, and the strengthened law will be an incentive for customers to make changes to their contracts which we would urge them to review now,” Mr Clark concluded.