The ACCC has instituted proceedings in the Federal Court against Ashley & Martin Pty Ltd (Ashley & Martin) alleging that clauses in its standard form contracts are unfair under the Australian Consumer Law and therefore void.
Ashley & Martin is an Australian company that provides hair loss treatment programs and hair replacement services to customers through its clinics in Australia, New Zealand and Singapore.
The ACCC alleges that from November 2013 until at least July this year, Ashley & Martin used three different standard form contracts, all containing clauses that were unfair. The contracts were used for customers signing up to Ashley & Martin’s ‘Personal RealGROWTH Program’.
To sign up to the program, customers attended an initial consultation with an Ashley & Martin sales consultant. Customers typically signed a treatment contract for up to 12 months during this initial consultation and then attended a medical consultation with an Ashley & Martin doctor sometime after this.
“The clauses which the ACCC alleges were unfair committed customers to paying the full contract price before the customer had a proper opportunity to consider medical advice about the treatment ,” ACCC Commissioner Sarah Court said.
To avoid paying the entire cost of the program, customers had only two days to consider the medical advice they received at the medical consultation and opt out of the contract.
“The ACCC is concerned that two days is not long enough for people to consider advice on medication they would be receiving over an extended period of time as part of Ashley & Martin’s program. The program costs thousands of dollars to sign up to, and a customer wanting to terminate the contract, even before being able to consult with a doctor, would have been substantially out of pocket,” Ms Court said.
“Consumers considering contracts for medical treatments are often in a vulnerable position. It is vital that these contracts allow a fair opportunity for people to fully consider the treatment program and medical advice, particularly where there is a risk of side effects.”
The ACCC is seeking declarations that the terms are unfair and consequently void, and an order for consumer redress and costs.