JJ Richards quiet as ACCC takes le­gal aim

ACCC ini­ti­ates pro­ceed­ings on ‘un­fair’ con­tract terms

Australian Transport News - - Contents -

THE AUS­TRALIAN COM­PE­TI­TION AND CON­SUMER COM­MIS­SION ( ACCC)

says it has started pro­ceed­ings in the Fed­eral Court against waste in­dus­try gi­ant JJ Richards & Sons in a high-profi le test of re­cent small busi­ness con­tract pro­tec­tions.

From Novem­ber 12 last year, the un­fair con­tract terms pro­vi­sions of the Aus­tralian Con­sumer Law ( ACL) were ex­tended to cover stan­dard form con­tracts in­volv­ing small busi­nesses, it points out.

The ACCC al­leges that eight clauses in the com­pany’s stan­dard form small busi­ness con­tract are void be­cause they are un­fair un­der the ACL.

ATN is await­ing a re­sponse from the com­pany.

A big fleet owner, JJ Richards is one of the largest pri­vately- owned waste man­age­ment com­pa­nies in Aus­tralia and pro­vides re­cy­cling, san­i­tary, and green waste col­lec­tion ser­vices.

The ACCC al­leges that un­til at least April this year, JJ Richards en­tered into stan­dard form con­tracts con­tain­ing terms the ACCC al­leges are un­fair.

“This is the fi rst time the ACCC has taken court ac­tion to en­force the new laws that pro­tect small busi­nesses from un­fair con­tract terms,” ACCC deputy chair Michael Schaper says.

“Where we iden­tify large op­er­a­tors, like JJ Richards, us­ing un­fair con­tract terms that cause harm to small busi­nesses, we will take ap­pro­pri­ate en­force­ment ac­tion.”

The ACCC al­leges eight un­fair con­tract terms: • Bind cus­tomers to sub­se­quent con­tracts un­less they can­cel the con­tract within 30 days be­fore the end of the term • Al­low JJ Richards to uni­lat­er­ally

in­crease its prices • Re­move any li­a­bil­ity for the com­pany where its per­for­mance is “pre­vented or hin­dered in any way” • Al­low it to charge cus­tomers for ser­vices not ren­dered for rea­sons that are be­yond the cus­tomer’s con­trol • Grant JJ Richards ex­clu­sive rights to re­move waste from a cus­tomer’s premises • Al­low JJ Richards to sus­pend its ser­vice but con­tinue to charge the cus­tomer if pay­ment is not made af­ter seven days • Cre­ate an un­lim­ited in­dem­nity in

favour of JJ Richards • Pre­vent cus­tomers from ter­mi­nat­ing their con­tracts if they have pay­ments out­stand­ing and en­ti­tles JJ Richards to con­tinue charg­ing cus­tomers equip­ment rental af­ter the ter­mi­na­tion of the con­tract. The ACCC seeks dec­la­ra­tions that the terms are un­fair and con­se­quently void, and in­junc­tions to pre­vent JJ Richards from re­ly­ing on those terms or en­ter­ing into fu­ture con­tracts with small busi­nesses that con­tain them.

“ACCC al­leges that eight clauses in the com­pany’s stan­dard form small busi­ness con­tract are void”

Michael Schaper

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