The new unfair contract laws that cover standard form small business contracts are set to commence on 12 November 2016. The new laws will have significant repercussions for the road transport industry because transport operators routinely rely on standard form contracts, usually set out in fine print on the reverse of consignment notes.

Under the new laws, conditions that seek to exclude or limit liability for loss of or damage to goods may be void if they are considered unfair. Transport operators should review and amend their standard conditions of carriage before the new laws come into effect to minimise the risk that a court will find them unfair.

What should transport operators do before 12 November 2016?

Transport operators should:

  • consider their current customer base to determine the extent to which services are provided to ‘small business’ customers;
  • consider whether their current insurance arrangements are adequate; and
  • review their standard conditions of carriage to ensure that:
    • any clauses that might potentially be considered unfair are expressed in clear and unambiguous language; and
    • any clauses that exclude or limit liability for claims associated with loss of or damage to goods are drafted so as to minimise the risk that a court will find the clauses to be unfair.

A comprehensive article discussing the new unfair contracts provisions is available here.