The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has instituted proceedings in the Federal Court against Chrisco Hampers Australia Limited (Chrisco) alleging contraventions of the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) involving an alleged unfair contract term, false or misleading representations, and lay-by termination charges which exceed Chrisco’s reasonable costs.
The ACCC alleges that Chrisco included an unfair contract term in its 2014 lay-by agreements. The term relates to Chrisco’s HeadStart Plan, and allows Chrisco to continue to take payments by direct debit after the consumer has fully paid for their lay-by agreement. Under this term, consumers were required to opt out in order to avoid having further payments deducted after their lay-by has been paid for.
The ACCC also alleges that from January 2011 to at least December 2013, Chrisco made false or misleading representations to consumers that they could not cancel their lay-by agreement after making their final payment, when the ACL provides that consumers have the right to terminate a lay-by agreement at any time before delivery of the goods.
It is also alleged that from 2011 until December 2014 Chrisco charged consumers a lay-by termination fee in excess of Chrisco’s reasonable costs in relation to those lay-by agreements.
"Purchasing goods by way of a lay-by agreement is convenient for many Australian consumers, particularly for Christmas. The ACCC is concerned to ensure that traders using the lay-by sales method comply with their obligations under the ACL, including those in relation to termination rights and lay-by termination charges,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.
The ACCC is seeking pecuniary penalties, declarations, injunctions, non-party consumer redress and costs.
The matter is set down for a directions hearing at 9:30am in Brisbane on Friday 6 February 2015 before Justice Logan.
Chrisco promotes its products, including Christmas Hampers, in a number of ways including television, the internet, and printed catalogues. Chrisco supplies goods to consumers in most areas of Australia, including regional areas and remote Indigenous communities.
The ACCC became aware of the alleged conduct following discussions with the Indigenous Consumer Assistance Network (ICAN) as part of the ACCC’s Indigenous consumer protection and outreach work.
More information on lay-by agreements is available on the ACCC’s website.
Use this form to make a general enquiry.