Small Business Access to Justice Bill passed in Senate
Inside Small Business
August 11, 2017
The Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman has welcomed a Senate vote to improve small business access. Ombudsman Kate Carnell said the passing of Labor’s Competition and Consumer Legislation Amendment, a small business access to justice bill, addressed a key finding from her Small Business Loans Inquiry.
“Access to justice is an important issue for small business operators,” Carnell said.
“The Senate bill allows Federal Court judges to waive liability for adverse costs to small business private litigants in cases related to the misuse of market power.
“It gives small business operators confidence to proceed with legal action, knowing they will only be liable for their own costs.
“This has the added benefit of filtering cases that might potentially be considered vexatious or unlikely to succeed, saving time and money for all involved.”
If the legislation were to be passed in the House of Representatives, it would empower judges to waive small businesses’ liability for the often huge costs incurred in anti-competition cases involving a small business and a larger corporation. Without this protection small businesses have often had to hold back from proceeding with litigation, even in cases where they have felt they have been badly wronged, because of the porentially crippling effects of costs should they be awarded against them.
The disparity in resources between smaller and larger businesses means the defendant in anti-competition cases can afford a larger legal team, and drag proceedings out as much as possible, in the knowledge that a small business often simply cannot afford to see proceedings through, even if they have a strong case.