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South Australia to create small business commissioner role

Friday, 1 October 2010 | By Oliver Milman

The South Australian government has followed the lead of Victoria by announcing plans to appoint a small business commissioner.

 

The commissioner will be tasked with monitoring the fair treatment of small businesses in their commercial dealings, investigating complaints over unfair market practices and mediating disputes.

 

The role is similar to the commissioner position that’s been in place in Victoria for the past seven years.

 

The Victorian model has been regarded as a success by small business groups and the NSW state opposition has promised to install an equivalent if it wins power.

 

The South Australian government revealed its plans, timed to mark the start of Small Business Month, alongside new proposals aimed at protecting franchisees.

 

The franchise laws will crackdown on unfair contract terms, requiring that “good faith” and “fair dealing” will be adopted during franchise negotiations.

 

It’s anticipated that the small business commissioner will be appointed by the governor, on the nomination of small business minister Tom Koutsantonis, while the franchise rules will be put forward to Parliament following industry consultation at the start of next year.

 

Koutsantonis says: “There are 135,000 small businesses in South Australia, making up 96% of all private sector businesses in this State - and they provide an exceptionally wide range of goods and services.”

 

“I believe the creation of an independent statutory officer, to champion their cause, will enable small businesses to grow further - which can only be beneficial to the overall South Australian economy.”

 

Referring to the franchise proposals, he adds:  “For too long the odds have been stacked in favour of the franchisors, it’s time to even the playing field.”

 

“These will be the most comprehensive set of franchising laws in the country, that will create much needed balance in this sector of the economy.”

 

“Central to this will be the creation of a regulatory framework that results in laws against unconscionable conduct and unfair contract terms.”

 

“A franchisee is often vulnerable to unfair terms when they first sign up. By legislating to ensure parties negotiate in good faith and do not engage in unconscionable conduct, the weaker party will be significantly empowered, holding the stronger party to account at all stages of negotiation.”