Consumer law in Australia is constantly evolving, sometimes for the worse, but mostly for the better. One area of consumer law which affects both businesses and consumers is contract law, and in this area, the government has made some significant proposals recently, and particularly concerning unfair contracts. We preface this, with recommending that if you seek legal advice, you should contact a commercial lawyer.
Definition Of Unfair Contracts
As it stands a contract relating to a consumer or a small business will be deemed unfair if any terms or conditions within that contract cause any of the three scenarios below to be created.
Whilst individuals might have a life goal of owning a property, the same cannot be said for businesses. There are many reasons why a business, rather than owning a property, will prefer to lease one. The first, is simply that many businesses do not have the financial resources to afford both the deposit and the payments on a commercial property mortgage.
A second reason is that leasing gives a business greater flexibility should they expand quickly and require a move to larger premises. A third reason will be a case of logistics, where a company operates entirely within two floors of offices and it would not be feasible for them to purchase an entire 10-floor office block, for example. No doubt many business owners will be able to cite additional reasons why, for them, leasing premises is preferable to buying them.
In all cases, for a business to be able to lease business premises there will need to be a commercial lease agreement signed by them and the property owner, or property management company. This is a legal document that must comply with commercial law. To do so it is likely to contain several sections, some of which are deemed essential by commercial law, so let us look at what they are.
It is a sad fact of the commercial world that some businesses cross to the wrong side of the line relating to honesty and proper conduct when it comes to how they communicate and act. For some businesses, their conduct might have been a result of errors and misunderstandings, but even then, it may still result in an unacceptable outcome. A point here is that even unintentional actions can result in repercussions under consumer law.
Most at fault are those businesses whose actions are deliberate attempts to give themselves a financial gain, whilst at the same time misleading and in some cases, cheating those customers who purchase their goods and services. Thankfully, commercial law has remedies for unacceptable conduct by businesses, and one area, in particular, is where a business acts misleadingly or deceptively.
The applicable legislation can be found in Section 18 of the Australian Consumer Law (ACL). The ACL applies across the entire country and thus means businesses in every state must comply with it and should not attempt any contravention of its consumer protections.
Definitions Of Misleading Or Deceptive Conduct By Businesses
There are three main ways in which misleading or deceptive conduct by businesses can be defined. They are:
#1: Future Predictions
This is classified as a business making forecasts or projections about the future which it simply cannot back up or prove with any credible evidence. Worse, it applies where a business deliberately makes false or misleading predictions. Countless examples might apply such as: