Changes to the Unfair Contract Terms (UCT) legislation could see harsher penalties for businesses in breach.
Despite the current UCT regime, many Australian businesses still use unfair terms in standard form contracts – including last year with major corporation, Fuji Xerox Australia.
“Unfair terms commonly arise in standard term contracts, especially when those standard term contracts repeat and are ongoing. Common everyday contracts such as mobile phone plans, gym memberships, travel insurance or a home loan fall within the scope of the UCT regime,” says Chiara Rawlins, Principal in McCabe Curwood’s Litigation and Dispute Resolution group.
“With changes to the UCT on the horizon, a broader class of ‘small’ businesses and insurance providers will now fall within the scope of the regime. Businesses and consumers should be mindful of these changes and their implications.”
To assist businesses and consumers in navigating the UCT regime and proposed changes, McCabe Curwood has launched MC Act (Assessing Contract Terms) – now available on the firm’s website.
The free survey-like app assists consumers in recognising unfair terms in standard form contracts, and businesses in identifying if they could be in breach.
“Original quote: Under the current UCT regime, the court has the power to declare an unfair contract term void and of no effect. However, the balance of the contract remains in effect and is still binding on the parties to the extent it is capable of operating without the unfair term(s)”, said Associate Guy Lewis, who played a key role in developing the online tool.
“Furthermore, as explained above, the Commonwealth government and state and territory consumer affairs ministers are currently considering proposed reforms to the UCT regime, which include the introduction of civil penalties for businesses where their consumer contracts or small business contracts have been found to include unfair contract terms,” continued Lewis.
The unfair contract terms protections have been extended to insurance contracts as of 5 April 2021.
“The regime changes aim to protect consumers and small businesses. With many groups likely to be impacted, we think MC Act will be very valuable. There is also the option for the user to contact McCabe Curwood for free advice following its completion,” said Rawlins.
You can access MC Act through the McCabe Curwood website https://mccabecurwood.com.au/the-firm/firm-resources-web-applications/
For further information about the UCT regime and what it means for business, please contact Amanda Lacey to arrange an interview with Chiara Rawlins, Principal in Litigation and Dispute Resolution at McCabe Curwood.
0418 448 570