Senate debates

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Trade Practices Amendment (Australian Consumer Law) Bill 2009

In Committee

6:27 pm

Photo of Nick XenophonNick Xenophon (SA, Independent) Share this | Hansard source

I move amendment (1) on sheet 5891:

(1)   Schedule 1, item 1, page 7 (after line 21), after section 4, insert:

4A  Unfair term—payments in person, in cash

        (1)    Without limiting section 3, a term that enables, or has the effect of enabling, a party to charge a fee for receiving a payment in person or in cash is taken to be an unfair term of a consumer contract.

        (2)    In this section:

fee means an amount additional to the upfront price payable under a consumer contract;

Under this amendment it will be considered an unfair contract term if businesses charge customers additional fees for paying bills in person or with cash—with legal tender. In July 2009, Telstra announced that it would be introducing a range of fees that would ‘reduce face-to-face customer service and drive more customers towards online bill payments’. This is something that Telstra eventually reversed. I congratulate Telstra for reversing it, but it did so because it made a judgment call, as a corporation, that that was not the right thing to do for consumers. However, there are other corporations that continue to charge this fee. I believe that it is particularly unfair to our senior citizens and to those citizens who do not have online access, who do not have credit cards and who want the comfort of being able to pay with cash for their transactions. Telstra has done the right thing by abolishing this revenue-generating fee, and I encourage other companies that currently have this fee—other phone companies, I understand—to follow its lead. This amendment will make it an unfair contract term to charge customers who cannot or choose not to use the internet to pay their bills with any company in the future. I think it is a straightforward amendment. I think a legal tender is legal tender; you should not be charged for the privilege of paying in cash.

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