If Federal Parliament rises without considering reforming unfair contracts it will be one of the big disappointments of 2021 for heavy vehicle business operators, the National Road Transport Association said today.
Treasury released an exposure draft of a bill in August this year, proposing a number of significant reforms aimed at strengthening protections for small businesses in relation to unfair contract terms.
That consultation followed a decision in November 2020 by Commonwealth, state and territory consumer ministers to make unfair contract terms unlawful and give courts the power to impose a civil penalty.
“We’ve been waiting years for action on unfair contracts and wrote to Treasury before the final sitting fortnight of Parliament to seek clarity on timelines,” said NatRoad CEO Warren Clark.
“Timing is a matter for the government of the day.
“The bill has not been listed for consideration by the Parliament before it rises on 2 December and this could be the last sitting before a Federal election.
“After the struggles of COVID, this is a live issue for many NatRoad members whose livelihoods are put at risk by the imbalance in favour of big corporates.”
Mr Clark said NatRoad strongly supported the amendments to provide more flexible remedies to a court when it declares a contract term unfair.
“The changes would remove the requirement for the upfront price payable under a contract to be below a certain threshold in order for the contract to be covered by the unfair contract protections.
“They would go a long way to improving clarity around the definition of standard-form contract, by providing further certainty on factors such as repeat usage of a contract template.
“And most, the amendments would introduce a financial penalty and increase the number of small business contracts to which these laws will apply.”