The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) commenced proceedings against Chrisco Hampers Australia Ltd (Chrisco) in the Federal Court almost 12 months ago, alleging that the lay-by agreement for its Christmas hampers was unfair.
The Federal Court has just handed down its decision – and agreed that the lay-by agreement used in 2014 contained an unfair contract term relating to the “HeadStart Plan”, which allowed Chrisco to continue to take payments by direct debit after the customer had fully paid for their order. The direct debits would only stop if the customer took the required steps to “opt out” of the payment plan.
The Court noted that the term caused a significant imbalance in the rights and obligations between Chrisco and its customers.
The Court also held that Chrisco made a false or misleading representation by stating to customers that they could not cancel their lay-by agreement after making the final payment – when in fact the law provides that a lay-by agreement can be cancelled at any time prior to delivery of the goods.
The ACCC also alleged that Chrisco breached the lay-by laws that require any termination charges imposed on the customer must be reasonable, and certainly no more than the reasonable costs incurred by the supplier. The Court held that the ACCC did not prove this point.
Further information about your rights with lay-by agreements is available on the ACCC’s website.