Unfair contract terms: True tales from the crypt

Unfair contract termsACCC’s recently announced push against unfair terms in standard form telco contracts isn’t the first time this has happened in Australia.  Back in 2007, when Victoria was the only state with an anti-unfair contract terms law, Consumer Affairs Victoria launched a clean up program directed at a group of large telcos.

At the time, we kept notes of different terms that CAV had problems with, and they make very interesting – even scary – reading in 2013 … especially since some of the senior CAV staff behind the 2007 contract purge are now prominent drivers of the national law.

Want to know what kinds of changes they were pushing telcos to make?  We’ll give you the 17 page list of CAV’s positions.

First, some cautions…

  • These were ‘CAV positions’ not court judgments.  History shows how wrong CAV was on some issues, and how right they were on others.
  • The unfair contracts law that CAV was working with was not word-for-word the same as the current law.  (But we still think it was materially the same, for all practical purposes.)
  • Some of the ‘positions’ have been overtaken by later legislative developments.  In some cases, the problem identified by CAV has been addressed by a different mechanism than an anti-unfair contract terms rule.
  • You’ll find some inconsistencies in the ‘positions’.  That reflects the facts that (a) CAV was flying kites, on occasions, and (b) different officers saw and expressed things differently.

So the 2007 CAV positions summary isn’t necessarily a statement of CAV’s or ACCC’s current views on the current law.  Having said all that, it is a compelling demonstration of how some powerful regulators have believed, and may well still believe, that an unfair contract terms law applies to Australian telcos.

Download the consolidated Consumer Affairs Victoria telco unfair contract terms list:

Unfair contract terms






About Peter Moon

A telco lawyer with a truckload of experience
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