ACCC

Payment surcharge changes

If your business charges customers a surcharge on transactions, be aware that from 1 September 2017, all businesses that impose payment surcharges on card transactions need to comply with the the Competition and Consumer Amendment (Payment Surcharges) Act 2016 which bans ‘excessive’ payment surcharges.

The new laws cover surcharges on typical card payment methods:

  • EFTPOS (debit and prepaid);
  • MasterCard (credit, debit and prepaid);
  • Visa (credit, debit and prepaid); and
  • American Express companion cards (issued through an Australian financial service provider, rather than directly through American Express*).

*Note that the benchmarks will not apply to foreign-issued cards. American Express proprietary cards (issued by American Express directly) are not covered by the ban, nor are BPAY, PayPal, Diners Club cards, UnionPay, cash or cheques.

The purpose of the legislative ban is to stop excessive surcharges – those charged at a price more than the actual cost of accepting that payment method. The cost to a business of accepting each payment method known as the ‘cost of acceptance’ for that method and is determined according to the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA)’s standards set by the RBA Payments Systems Board.

A payment surcharge is generally considered excessive if it exceeds the ‘cost of acceptance’.

If your cost of acceptance for Visa credit cards is 1%, then you can only charge a maximum of 1%, not 2% or 3%.

The cost of acceptance can include merchant service fees, fees paid for the rental and maintenance of payment card terminals, any other fees incurred in processing card transactions, fraud prevention services, insurance etc but these must be able to be verified by contracts, statements or invoices.

Businesses cannot include any of their own internal costs when calculating their surcharges (for example, labour or electricity costs).

The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) is responsible for enforcing the ban and can:

  • issue an infringement notice with penalties of up to $2,160 (individuals, partnerships), $10,800 (body corporate) or $108,000 (listed corporation
  • take court action seeking pecuniary penalties of up to $1,164,780, injunctions and other orders.

Receiving such a penalty would be a disastrous hit to small business, so make sure you comply with the payment surcharge changes. Ask your financial institution to let your know what the average cost of accepting cards is and review it annually so you don’t get caught out.

You may also need to update your business’s Terms of Trade.

Westpac notes costs of acceptance here, NAB here and ANZ here

FURTHER INFORMATION

Craig Pryor is principal solicitor at McKillop Legal. For further information in relation to business law, litigation and dispute resolution or any commercial law matter, contact Craig Pryor on (02) 9521 2455 or email craig@mckilloplegal.com.au.

This information is general only and is not a substitute for proper legal advice. Please contact McKillop Legal to discuss your needs.

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Purchasing a Franchise?

What is a franchise?

A franchise is a business system controlled by the franchisor, using the franchisor’s symbol or trade mark for a fee, subject to rules/restrictions/restrictions as stated in the relevant Franchise Agreement.

Given the bargaining power of the franchisor and franchisee being very different, the relationship of franchisor/franchisee is regulated to help ensure fairness in their dealings.

The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) regulates the Franchising Code of Conduct (Franchising Code), which is a mandatory industry code that applies to the parties to a franchise agreement.

Franchising Code

The Franchising Code is in Schedule 1 to the Competition and Consumer (Industry Codes – Franchising) Regulation 2014 made under s. 51AE of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010. The Franchising Code applies from 1 January 2015 and replaces the previous 1998 code.

In short, the Franchising Code:

  • requires parties to act in good faith (for example, reasonably, honestly etc) in their dealings
  • introduces financial penalties and infringement notices for serious breaches
  • requires franchisors to provide prospective franchisees with a short information sheet (Disclosure Document) outlining the risks and rewards of franchising
  • requires franchisors to provide greater transparency in the use of and accounting for money used for marketing and advertising and to set up a separate marketing fund for marketing and advertising fees
  • requires additional disclosure about the ability of the franchisor and a franchisee to sell online
  • prohibits franchisors from imposing significant capital expenditure, except in limited circumstances
  • provides a dispute resolution process

Disclosure Document

An important requirement of the Code is the requirement for the franchisor to provide a prospective franchisee with a “Disclosure Document”.

The purpose of the Disclosure Document is to provide prospective franchisees, and existing franchisees that wish to renew or extend their existing agreement, with information about the business and the franchisor to allow the franchisee to make an informed decision about the franchise and obtain current information regarding the franchised business.

The Disclosure Document must provide information on the business, including:

  • the franchisor, its contact details, its business and its directors and their business experience
  • details of any master franchisor
  • the franchise site or territory
  • details of legal proceedings against the franchisor and its directors
  • contact details of current (and former) franchisees
  • financial details
  • the franchisor’s requirements for supply of goods or services to a franchise
  • whether online saes are permitted and any restrictions
  • details on marketing or other cooperative funds
  • details of payments such as pre-payments, establishment costs and other fees
  • details on any trade marks and patents that are part of the franchised business
  • details of arrangements when the franchise arrangement ends

If you are purchasing a franchise, before entering into an agreement, you should seek legal and accounting advice.

FURTHER INFORMATION

Craig Pryor is principal solicitor at McKillop Legal. For further information in relation to buying/selling businesses, franchises or any commercial law matter, contact Craig Pryor on (02) 9521 2455 or email craig@mckilloplegal.com.au.

This information is general only and is not a substitute for proper legal advice. Please contact McKillop Legal to discuss your legal concerns or objectives.

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