DP World Australia, Hutchison Ports Australia and Victoria International Container Terminal (VICT) have agreed to remove potentially unfair contract terms within the meaning of the Australian Consumer Law.
The parties would remove or amend terms in their standard form contracts after the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) brought their attention to the matter.
Namely, the ACCC explained that DP World and Hutchison had contract terms that allowed a stevedore to unilaterally vary terms in the agreements without notice, including fees paid by the land transport operators.
The two terminal operators had terms that limited their liability for loss or damage suffered by the transport businesses, while not offering the transport businesses the same protections. Additionally, VICT’s contract had a term requiring transport businesses to indemnify VICT for loss or damage, with no reciprocal obligation on VICT.
Furthermore, DP World’s standard agreement required the transport businesses to pay the stevedore’s legal costs and expenses, in circumstances where such payments would normally be determined by court order.
The ACCC informed that the three stevedores cooperated with its investigation and agreed to remove or amend the terms. Contract terms which previously allowed the stevedore to amend the contract without notice have either been removed, or now require the stevedore to give 30 days’ notice of any changes, including for any price rises.
“Thousands of transport businesses, which have standard form agreements with DP World, Hutchison and VICT, stand to benefit from these changes,” Sarah Court, ACCC Commissioner, said.
“The handling of containers has a direct bearing on the cost of goods in Australia and the competitiveness of Australian exports, so it is crucial for businesses and consumers that the supply chain operates fairly and efficiently.”
The ACCC launched its investigation in early 2018 following concerns being raised about alleged unfair terms in contracts between container stevedores and land transport operators.