A prominent hair regrowth provider has found itself on the wrong side of the competition watchdog over unfair contract terms, which will see the business dragged before the Federal Court.
Ashley & Martin, which operates clinics across Australia as well as several in New Zealand and one in Singapore, used three distinct contracts which all imposed improper and unfair terms on customers, according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).
The contracts were in use from November 2013 through to at least July 2017.
“The clauses which the ACCC alleges were unfair committed customers to paying the full contract price before the customer had a proper opportunity to consider medical advice about the treatment,” said ACCC Commissioner Sarah Court.
Customers had just two days to consider their options and opt out of the contract before they were charged for the entire cost of the program.
“The ACCC is concerned that two days is not long enough for people to consider advice on medication they would be receiving over an extended period of time as part of Ashley & Martin’s program,” Ms Court said.
“The program costs thousands of dollars to sign up to, and a customer wanting to terminate the contract, even before being able to consult with a doctor, would have been substantially out of pocket.”
Ms Court added: “Consumers considering contracts for medical treatments are often in a vulnerable position. It is vital that these contracts allow a fair opportunity for people to fully consider the treatment program and medical advice, particularly where there is a risk of side effects.”
As part of its court action, the ACCC is seeking for the contracts to be declared void, affected customers to be reimbursed as well as payment of costs.
Readers can be forgiven for thinking they have experienced déjà vu, with a major competitor of Ashley & Martin’s – Advanced Hair Studio – forced to refund customers who were stung by similar unfair contract terms in October this year.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.