you a small business and unhappy with a 'take it or leave it
contract' from a large supplier?
The rule is that when you tick the box: I accept the
terms and conditions - you cannot complain later, no matter
how unfair the terms are.
But no longer - This year, small businesses joined
consumers in being able to challenge unfair terms in
standard form contracts, by virtue of an amendment to the
Australian Consumer Law. And the Government watchdog - the
Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) is
leading the way in cracking down on unfair terms in small
Here are some examples of unfair terms which are void i.e.
are no longer enforceable:
- Automatic Renewal - The Contract is automatically
renewed for the same term unless a 60 days notice of
cancellation is given before the current period ends.
- Unilateral Variation - The Contract allows the
supplier to increase prices to pass on any increases in
costs, without being limited to unavoidable increases
such as tax increases.
- Limited Liability - The Contract provides that the
supplier is not liable if it fails to provide the
services or goods at the agreed times or cancels its
services or deliveries.
- Early Termination Payments - The Contract requires
payment of all that is owing and what is payable to the
end of the term, even if the Contract is terminated
According to the ACCC, unfair terms in Contracts are
prevalent in these industries: Advertising;
Telecommunications; Retail Leasing; Independent Contracting;
Franchising; Waste Management and Agriculture.
Suppliers need to urgently review their Terms and
Conditions to remove unfair terms, otherwise the ACCC will
crack down on them.
Last week, the ACCC successfully had JJ Richards Waste
Management remove eight unfair terms from their standard
form contract. For my case note
The Federal Court declares eight
standard form contract clauses to be void because they are
unfair to small businesses
It's not unfair to dismiss an
employee who has been under-performing
To be successful, a mushroom farm must deliver quality
produce to its customers.
Mushroom pickers are trained to take the mature
mushrooms, and to discard spotted and diseased mushrooms and
wet mushrooms. They are paid a piece rate per box, The
payment is higher for boxes of A-grade mushrooms than
Two pickers, husband and wife, decided to take short
cuts. They filled their boxes half way with "rubbish
mushrooms" and topped the boxes with A-grade mushrooms. The
employer did not have the ability to check each box, and so
they were sold to the customer as A-grade mushrooms.
The customer re-packaged the mushrooms into trays for
sale, and discovered the "rubbish mushrooms". They returned
the boxes on three separate occasions, and asked for a
refund as they had paid for A-grade mushrooms. Each time,
the boxes returned had the picker numbers of the husband and
wife. Each time, the husband and wife were given a warning.
The customer was a large customer, and on the third time,
they sent a letter to advise they would cease business if
this happened again. This was the trigger which led to the
pickers being dismissed, not with notice, but summarily
The FairWork Commission decided this was not an unfair
dismissal because there was good reason. To read my case
click - Fair Work uses common sense to
find an employer had just cause to summarily dismiss an
Sleaze has no place in the
88% of sexual harassment complaints made to the
Australian Human Rights Commission are workplace related.
Unwanted and uninvited 'sharing' of sexual explicit
photos and sexy texts and making comments of a sexual
nature, are two forms of sexual harassment.
In a recent decision by the Fair Work Commission, a Cabin
Crew Supervisor on an unnamed airline was accused of sexual
harassment which was primarily directed to female flight
attendants. It took these forms -
- By mobile phone The employee showed sexually
explicit photos and sexy text messages from a crew
member with whom he was having a sexual relationship, to
other flight crew members on several occasions.
- By shouting "I hope you are clean” to the
crew member the day after he began his relationship with
her, in the presence of other flight crew members on the
- By whispering to a female flight attendant,
his ‘ratings’ of female passengers as they boarded the
aircraft: “She’s got great tits” and “She’ll be great in
- By propositioning a female work colleague at
the airline’s Christmas Party: “I really want to have a
threesome with you XXX and YYY (her flatmate). Oh,
sorry, I mean a foursome with ZZZ”.
This behaviour caused the work colleagues to feel
humiliated, uncomfortable and awkward. As one said, he was a
Rejecting protests by the employee that his behaviour was
part of the workplace culture where “nothing is really off
limits, it’s pretty out there…” and that “almost every
flight, the talk would turn into a discussion on sex”, the
Commissioner found that the airline had good reason to
dismiss the employee with immediate effect.
For more information
Is sexual harassment a good reason for an airline to dismiss
a flight crew member?
Has another business started
using your name? What can/must you do to stop them?
Sydney Medical Services has provided after-hours
doctors for home visits since 1971 in the Sydney
Metropolitan region. Last year. it had 76,885 home visits.
Imagine its surprise when early this year it noticed
brochures advertising Sydney Medical Services 2020
for after-hours doctors for home visits, and a website which
looked very much like its own website.
A copycat business
was using its name to lure its customers!
How could this
happen? Doesn't registration on the National Names Register
mean that a competitor cannot register a similar name?
Sadly, no. A copycat competitor can register a nearly
identical name, if they are good enough to circumvent the
same name filters the Registry uses.
That is where you
need a good lawyer and marketing consultant who will suggest
variations you can register, and domain name and trade mark
registrations, to protect one of your most important
business assets - your name.
The lawyer will also be able
to obtain a Federal Court order to stop the copycat using
your name. In the case of Sydney Medical Services,
the Federal Court ordered the copycat business to stop using
For more information on business name protection
click - What must a business owner do to
protect against a copycat name?
Is there anything you can do to stop a
law suit by a $2 company from going ahead?
$2 companies are companies with no money. They often
bring speculative law suits claiming tens or even hundreds
of thousands of dollars in compensation for business
opportunities which did not go ahead or which turned out
Defending law suits brought by $2 companies is time
consuming and expensive, especially when they go all the way
to a court hearing which lasts 2 or more days. This applies
of course to all law suits, but the particular problem with
law suits brought by $2 companies is that if the defence is
successful, the $2 company has no money to pay the legal
fees the court orders to be paid by it - they simply go into
liquidation to avoid payment.
Smart lawyers have a way of dealing with $2 companies
bringing speculative law suits. They 'cut them off at the
pass' by bring what is called a 'security for costs' motion.
What a security for costs motion does is to force the $2
company to pay into court the estimated amount of the legal
fees the defence will incur in defending the law suit. And
if the amount ordered is not paid, the law suit is 'stayed'
(i.e. stopped), permanently.
Rules apply as to when you can and cannot succeed in a
security for costs motion. For a case study,
click - Is
there reason to believe that a costs order will not be able
to be paid?
Are you debt collecting? If so, make
sure that you use mild (not undue) harassment and firm (not
coercive) demands to avoid breaching the Australian Consumer
When debt collecting, make sure you don't go over-the-top
when making threats to the debtor to press for payment.
Don't threaten legal sanctions like bankruptcy, visits
from Sheriffs' Officers, seizure of assets, judgments,
unless you have commenced legal proceedings. Don't threaten
public disclosure of the debt to friends or the employer.
Don't add exorbitant additional fees for late payment or
every time you make a demand.
It is important to not unduly harass or coerce a debtor
in these ways when pressing for payment. Otherwise you may
fall foul of the Australian Consumer Law.
See Full Article
ASIC cracks down on
irresponsible lending practices for consumer credit
It’s easy to dismiss the large penalty against The Cash
Store for contravening the consumer credit law as a warning
for payday lenders only.
ASIC does not see it that way. Responding to the case, ASIC
(the Australian Securities and Investments Commission) has
issued this warning to the whole consumer credit industry:
See Full Article
FINKS FOLLY - there is (almost) no
consumer protection for business loans
Fink’s case shows just how hard it is for a small
business owner to challenge a business loan debt using
consumer laws and codes.
See Full Article
JOINT VENTURES FOR BUSINESS:
In this article, we give you a basic
understanding of how partnering can be used to
develop a relationship between businesses.
See Full Article
This article looks at protection strategies for names as
business names, company names, domain names and names and
also logos as trade marks, before and after a similar name
or logo is noticed.
See Full Article
BUYING AND SELLING A BUSINESS:
Practical advice on legal issues
See Full Article