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Aussie consumer law starts to bite ISPs

First ICT-sector test of consumer legislation has close parallels with NZ Bill before Parliament

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has taken ISP ByteCard Pty. Limited (also known as Netspeed Internet Communications) to court in the first ICT-sector test of consumer legislation which has close parallels in a New Zealand Bill now before Parliament.

ACCC alleges unfair terms "which should be declared void" in ByteCard's standard-form consumer contracts. The terms singled out in the action as possibly against the Australian Consumer Law [caps sic] are those the consumer body says "enable ByteCard to unilaterally vary the price under an existing contract without providing the customer with a right to terminate the contract; require the consumer to indemnify ByteCard in any circumstance, even where the contract has not been breached, and the liability, loss or damage may have been caused by ByteCard's breach of the contract; and enable ByteCard to unilaterally terminate the contract at any time with or without cause or reason."

Similar terms are signalled as possibly unfair in New Zealand's Consumer Law Reform Bill. This has passed its second reading in Parliament and is scheduled for the Committee stage; it is expected to be passed by the end of the year.

Last week, Computerworld referenced comment by law firm Wigley Law on the similarities between the two statutes, which are both informed by the same ACCC study.

In an update to its comment, referring to the ByteCard case, Wigley says: "Expect the cases to start coming in waves, and they'll clarify suppliers' obligations in Australia and New Zealand.

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