Furniture removalist agrees to change unfair contract (Miller’s Moves)

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All announcements issued prior to 1 July 2017 were issued by the former Department of Commerce. Announcements listed here are the latest versions available, but may be subject to review. For more information on this announcement, please contact online@dmirs.wa.gov.au.

A national furniture removal company which operates in WA has agreed to change the terms of its standard contract with customers following action by Consumer Protection.

R.F. & M.D. Miller’s Moves Pty Ltd, based in Mornington Victoria, has entered into an enforceable undertaking under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) to remove a clause in their standard contract. The contract purported to prevent customers who didn’t pay extra for insurance from making a claim for any losses or damage caused to their possessions during transit.

The action was undertaken by Consumer Protection after the company refused to pay a WA consumer’s damage claim of $7,565, referring to a clause in the contract which stated that the company was not liable for any loss or damage to non-insured goods. Miller’s Moves did, however, offer the consumer a $2,750 refund of the removal cost.

As a result of this case, Commissioner for Consumer Protection Anne Driscoll has urged all removalists to review their contracts to ensure they don’t contain similar unfair terms and conditions.

“It is unlawful for a removalist to limit the right of an ordinary consumer to recover the cost of any losses or damage caused either by the company’s negligence or its failure to perform according to the contract,” Ms Driscoll said.

“Under the ACL, a removalist like any other trader is required to exercise due care and skill and deliver services within a reasonable time. As a general rule, no contract can remove a consumer’s rights which, in this case, includes being able to claim compensation for loss or damage to their goods.

“Moreover, where a consumer signs a standard form contract, has no ability to negotiate the specific terms and a clause in that contract is unfair, the clause is deemed to be void if it tries to remove the consumer’s legal rights or attempts to deter them from enforcing their rights.

“Generally-speaking, it is unlawful under the ACL for a trader to assert or deny a right written into or excluded by the terms of a contract but where the ACL grants that same right. Traders are recommended to review their contracts to ensure non-excludable consumer rights are not being excluded.

“Any consumer, who has a dispute with a removal company and feels they have been treated unfairly, should contact Consumer Protection to have their contract reviewed.”

A term in a standard form consumer contract is considered unfair if: it causes a significant imbalance in the parties’ rights and obligations; is not reasonably necessary to protect a legitimate interest of the party who would be advantaged by the term and would cause detriment (financial or otherwise) if it were to be applied to the consumer.

A publication giving information specifically about contracts with removalists can be found on the Consumer Protection website: Preventing unfair terms in furniture removal agreements.

Further enquiries can be made by email: consumer@commerce.wa.gov.au or by phone 1300 30 40 54.

END OF RELEASE

(Consumer Protection is a division of the Department of Commerce)

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Media Contact:
Alan Hynd
9282 0961 or 0429-078791
alan.hynd@commerce.wa.gov.au

Consumer Protection
Media release
29 Jul 2013

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