The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has launched legal proceedings against Chrisco Hampers Australia (Chrisco) alleging that the mail order hamper delivery service included an unfair contract term in its 2014 layby 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 layby agreement. Under this term, consumers were required to opt out in order to avoid having further payments deducted after their layby 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 (ACL) layby agreement after making their final payment, when the Australian Consumer Law provides that consumers have the right to terminate a layby agreement at any time before delivery of the goods.
It is also alleged that from 2011 until December 2014 Chrisco charged consumers a layby termination fee in excess of Chrisco’s reasonable costs in relation to those layby agreements.
“Purchasing goods by way of a layby agreement is convenient for many Australian consumers, particularly for Christmas. The ACCC is concerned to ensure that traders using the layby sales method comply with their obligations under the ACL, including those in relation to termination rights and layby 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 in Brisbane on Friday February 6, 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.