ASBFEO asks Amazon to review contract terms for Australian market

Carnell urges online retail giant to ensure compliance with Australian unfair contract terms rules

ASBFEO asks Amazon to review contract terms for Australian market
Carnell says some of Amazon's American terms and conditions may be considered unfair in Australia.


The Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO) has asked Amazon to ensure compliance with Australian unfair contract terms legislation ahead of its imminent entry into the local market.

Writing to the online retail giant, ASBFEO Kate Carnell notes there is optimism coupled with concerns among small local businesses about the pressure they will come under once Amazon hits Australian shores.

However, she sees it as an opportunity for such businesses to extend their reach and compete online.

"Some businesses are concerned about the threat of competition while others are excited to embrace the opportunity that Amazon offers," Carnell says.

"For consumers the Amazon Marketplace promises to expand choice and put downward pressure on prices.

"I’m interested to see how Australian small businesses can accelerate sales and broaden their customer base though the Amazon platform."

ASBFEO says an analysis of the Amazon Marketplace contract terms in the US suggests they would have to be changed in Australia to comply with federal legislation.

"From 12 November 2016, changes to the Australian Consumer Law protect small business from unfair terms in standard-form contracts," Carnell says.

"A standard-form contract is one that has been prepared by one party and where the other party has little or no opportunity to negotiate the terms.

"An unfair term is one that causes a significant imbalance in the parties’ rights and obligations and causes detriment to a small business if it were applied or relied upon."

Carnell reminds the US-based company of its obligation to treat small businesses fairly in accordance with Australian laws.

Under the company’s terms and conditions applicable in the US, it reserves the right to refuse service, terminate accounts, terminate rights to use Amazon services, remove or edit content, or cancel orders at its sole discretion.

ASBFEO says such terms may be considered unfair in Australia "as action can be taken by one party, Amazon, but not the other party, the vendor, to terminate the contract".

"I’ve requested that Amazon review the terms and conditions in use for standard form contracts in its Australian operations to ensure they comply with the unfair contracts terms legislation," she says.

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