The National Road Transport Association (NatRoad) has called on Federal Parliament to urgently consider reforming unfair contracts to protect small businesses.
NatRoad warned that, “it will be one of the big disappointments for heavy vehicle business operators 2021,” if the government fails to act.
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.
“NatRoad CEO Warren Clark said his organisation had been waiting years for action on unfair contracts and wrote to Treasury before the final sitting fortnight of Parliament to seek clarity on timelines.
“Timing is a matter for the government of the day,” said Clark.
“The bill has not been listed for consideration by the parliament before it rises on December 2 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.”
Clark said NatRoad strongly supported the amendments to provide more flexible remedies to a court when it rules that a contract term is unfair and provide more rationale around contract definitions.
“They would go a long way to improving clarity around the definitions of standard-form contracts.
Clark believes 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,” explained Clark.
“At most, the amendments would introduce a financial penalty and increase the number of small business contracts to which these laws will apply.”