COVID-19 & unfair contract terms

The COVID-19 pandemic may have affected how businesses you deal with operate. This guidance aims to help you to identify what might be unfair contract terms and what you can do.

The ACCC wants to understand how changes in business behaviour during and post-COVID might be affecting you and encourage you to contact us. While we can’t take action in relation to all types of behaviour, your insights are essential in guiding our work so it has the most impact for small businesses.

What contract terms might be unfair?

As a small business you are protected from unfair terms in standard form contracts under the Australian Consumer Law.

During the COVID-19 pandemic

  • Has a business relied on a contract term to cancel a service or supply of a product without refunding you?
  • Has a business changed the terms of your contract without your permission?
  • Did the price under a contract increase without you being told?
  • Have you been supplied a different product that you didn’t agree to?
  • Did a provider fail to deliver services at scheduled times or cancel that supply and tell you that it was not responsible?
  • Did you cancel a contract because you didn't like the changes, but the provider charged you for cancelling?
  • Did your contract automatically renew even though due to COVID-19 you no longer needed or wanted the product or service?

Depending on the circumstances, terms such as these may be unfair.

If so, you can:

  • contact the ACCC
  • Talk to the contract provider and ask them to resolve the issue, for example, by amending or removing the term
  • Talk to a lawyer about the contract
  • Contact your local state or territory consumer protection agency
  • Contact the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, or a Small Business Commissioner in your state
  • If it relates to financial products and services, contact ASIC.

    Contacting the ACCC

    To contact us, you can:

    • report a small business issue via the web form
    • call our Small Business Helpline on 1300 302 021, Monday to Friday from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm AEST/AEDT.

    The ACCC can:

    • use the information you provide to identify and investigate patterns of behaviour that may harm competition
    • investigate alleged behaviour affecting small businesses
    • take certain actions in cases of widespread small business detriment.

    We can't:

    • act on your behalf or provide you with legal advice on your rights and obligations under the law
    • rule whether a contract term is unfair. Ultimately, only a court or tribunal (not the ACCC) can make this decision.

    More information

    Unfair contract terms FAQs

    Determining whether a contract term is unfair

    Unfair contract terms - for consumers

    Unfair contract terms: New protection for small businesses

    New unfair contract terms law webinar

    Unfair terms in small business contracts - industry report

    COVID-19 information for business