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Give unfair contract laws teeth, says competition boss

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

We’re most pleased to see the head of the Australian Consumer and Competition Council (ACCC), Rod Sims, call for the unfair contract laws to be given ‘teeth’.  Good on you, Rod. We back you on this one!

The unfair contract laws for small business passed parliament in late 2015. We called the laws ‘A welcome disruption to the economy.’ The passing of the laws was the end of a seven-year campaign by us battling the big end of town. Here’s the history of our campaign. We nearly didn’t succeed, as the dollar limit on contracts was to be set so low as to neuter the laws. But the Senate came to the rescue and amended the laws.

The laws came into operation on 12 November 2016. The ACCC estimated that some 8 million contracts needed to be amended.

There’s been some success. The ACCC forced Sensis, Servcorp, AWB Harvest and others to make changes. Small business lender Prospa has amended its contracts after ASIC review.

Rod Sims is calling for the laws to be stronger so that
  • unfair clauses are prohibited, not just ‘null and void’;
  • penalties and infringement notices can be applied for unfair contracts; and
  • the $ threshold be increased.
Here’s Rod’s speech on the issue. We support each of these improvements.

Really what we’re talking about is giving self-employed, small business people an equal, contractual ‘go’ with big business at being in the economy. It’s about proper competition under which we create a stronger and fairer economy.

And look at self-employed people. Aussie lawyers are switching in droves to being self-employed freelancers says Lawyers Weekly. And like all professional, self-employed freelancers, almost no amount of extra money would entice them to the 9 to 5 employment mill reports the Sydney Morning Herald.

The thing is that being self-employed is about controlling your own work-life balance, chasing your passions to turn those into income, being excited about setting your own objectives, getting a spread of clients through whom you create levels of ‘certainty’ and determining your own path in life. These are the drivers. And it is about rejecting being ‘told’ what to do by persons allegedly superior to you. This is a market economy in its real sense. It’s about many players being competitive in self-fulfilling ways. It’s great to see one regulator, the ACCC, ‘getting’ the importance of this!

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