Protecting small business

The Commonwealth Government has extended the unfair contract protections that apply to consumers to the small business sector.

The new small business protections will allow the courts to declare void a term within a contract that is unfair. For example, a term that allows a big business to unilaterally change the price or key terms during the course of the contract could be considered unfair. Businesses that offer low value standard form contracts will have to comply with the new law.

The government has provided $1.4 million to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to ensure businesses comply with the new rules, while the minister for small business has written to state and territory consumer affairs ministers asking them to agree to the changes.

A new jobs and small business package will also be announced over the coming weeks. It will include a small business company tax cut on 1 July, which is expected to be at least as big as the 1.5 per cent already flagged.

Announcing the changes, The Hon Bruce Billson, minister for small business said: “Small business is the engine room of Australia’s economic future. We want to ensure that small businesses have access to a level playing field so they can continue to grow, invest and create jobs.”

In March, the government announced draft legislation to establish an Australian small business and family enterprise ombudsman, which would be a Commonwealth-wide advocate for small businesses and family enterprises; a concierge for dispute resolution; and a contributor to the development of small business friendly Commonwealth laws and regulations.