Small business enquiries jump 60% during pandemic

Small business enquiries to the ACCC in 2020 increased 60 per cent compared to the previous year, with total contacts rising to more than 3,400 in the second half of the year.

Its latest Small Business in Focus Report also found enquiries about businesses’ legal rights and obligations jumped 30 per cent. In fact, the ACCC has recently brought a number of small business and franchising cases before the courts.

“We currently have a number of important cases before the courts that highlight some of the problems the small business and franchising sector faces,” ACCC deputy chair Mick Keogh says.

Reports of potential misconduct were down slightly in July to December 2020 but the ACCC still received almost 2,000 total complaints from small businesses, about one-third of which were reports of misleading conduct and false representations by other businesses.

“The last 12 months have been incredibly difficult for many small businesses but it is pleasing that we have received fewer reports of misconduct from businesses and more requests for information about legal obligations and protections.

“Seventy per cent of all businesses that contacted the ACCC in the second half of last year were micro-sized businesses with four staff or fewer. Many of these businesses have limited resources and are vulnerable to misconduct from larger suppliers, so it is important that they understand they have certain protections under the Australian Consumer Law.”

The Australian Government is currently progressing reforms that will strengthen existing unfair contract term protections in the Australian Consumer Law.

“The ACCC has been advocating for a number of years for changes to the current unfair contract term law as it has some major limitations,” Keogh says.

“The business-to-business unfair contract term law is a very important law for small businesses and we hope to see new, stronger laws come into effect later this year.”