Uber Eats agreed this week to amend its contracts with restaurants following an investigation by the ACCC.
From at least 2016, Uber Eats' contracts made restaurants responsible for the delivery of food orders despite the restaurants having no control over delivery. Under the contracts, if food became "substandard" (for example hot food became cold), Uber Eats could force restaurants to refund the costs of the food to customers, regardless of whether the issue was the restaurants fault.
ACCC chair Rod Sims said that the ACCC considers these terms to be unfair "because they appear to cause a significant imbalance between restaurants and Uber Eats; the terms were not reasonably necessary to protect Uber Eats and could cause detriment to restaurants."
Uber Eats agreed to amend these terms to make it clear that restaurants will only be responsible for matters within their control, such as incorrect food items or incorrect and missing orders. Under the amended contracts, restaurants will also be given the ability to dispute responsibility for refunds to customers and Uber Eats will reasonably consider these disputes.
Mr Sims said that the case was a "great illustration" of why the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) needs to change. Under the current ACL, a court can declare unfair contract terms to be void and unenforceable, but they are not illegal and penalties cannot be imposed. Mr Sims said that if such contracts were illegal, "we'd be taking them to court for significant penalties."
Red Rich Fruits
The agreement from Uber follows on from the case involving Red Rich Fruits, a fresh fruit trader, agreeing to amend its standard form contract with growers last month after the ACCC raised concerns that the contract contained an unfair contract term.
The contract term in question allowed Red Rich Fruits to seek credit from a grower in respect of produce which Red Rich Fruits had on-sold to a third party, but which was rejected by the third party. The ACCC considered it likely that this term was an unfair contract term in breach of the ACL. The ACCC also raised concerns that Red Rich Fruits' standard form contract included terms that did not comply with the pricing formula and payment transparency terms set out in the Horticulture Code of Conduct, a mandatory industry code prescribed under the Competition and Consumer Act 2010.
Red Rich Fruits agreed to amend the pricing and payment clauses in its standard form contract in response to the ACCC's concerns.
What does this mean for your business?
These cases demonstrate the ACCC's willingness to crack down on the use of unfair contract terms by businesses across all industries.
The ACCC has also indicated that strengthening unfair contract term protections for small businesses remains one of its top priorities. The ACCC has called for legislative changes so that it can seek penalties and compensation for small businesses where large businesses impose unfair terms.
To avoid sanction by the ACCC and bad publicity (and possible penalties in the future), all businesses should review their standard form contracts to determine if any terms are unfair.
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