Friday, 27 March 2020 11:31

1300 Australia changing contracts on small business telecoms termination fees says ACCC Featured

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1300 Australia is amending its current and future contracts to refund part of the termination fees paid by small business customers after the competition watchdog ACCC raised concerns that some of the contracts were unfair.

The company sells ‘phonewords’ telephone numbers that also spell words on a keypad, such as ’13 POOL’ or ‘1300 PROPERTY’ and in a court-enforceable undertaking has acknowledged that some of the terms in its contracts may have been unfair, and committed to amend its contracts.

1300 Australia has undertaken to amend current and future agreements to ensure:

  • it will give customers 30 days’ notice before renewing a customer’s contract;
  • it cannot charge an administration fee for late payment of more than $25;
  • customers have 30 days to rectify a breach of the contract before 1300 Australia can terminate it;
  • customers can terminate the agreement with 3 months’ notice, after the initial contract period, at no charge; and
  • termination fees are limited to the equivalent of 3 months’ fees, if less than 3 months’ notice is given, after the initial contract period.

1300 Australia has also committed to review previous complaints, refund excessive termination fees and implement an Australian Consumer Law (ACL) compliance program.

“Small businesses have less bargaining power, and we regularly hear concerns from small businesses about inequitable agreements with large businesses,” ACCC Deputy Chair Mick Keogh said.

“In this case, we had concerns about unexpected costs, or obligations, as a result of 1300 Australia’s contract terms.”

The ACCC says it was concerned that the terms in various standard form contracts that were entered into, or renewed, by 1300 Australia since 12 November 2016, created a significant imbalance in the rights and obligations of small business customers and 1300 Australia, and were not reasonably necessary to protect 1300 Australia’s interests.

“We were particularly concerned about contract terms which permitted 1300 Australia to renew a contract without notifying the customer, to charge unspecified penalties for late payments and to charge significant termination fees. A small business could be required to pay a termination fee of up to 92.5% of the total contract fees if they cancelled the contract early,” Keogh said.

“We are pleased that 1300 Australia has committed to refund part of the termination fees paid by small business consumers who have complained to 1300 Australia since November 2016, where the termination fee paid exceeded more than 3 months’ fees under their agreement.”

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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