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Tradie platform Hipages admits to misleading conduct

Online home improvement platform Hipages Group has admitted breaching Australian consumer laws saying it “likely engaging in misleading or deceptive conduct”.

The Hipages platform connects tradespeople and small businesses who subscribe to the marketplace with consumers who need work completed.

Between October 2018 and January last year, the website failed to adequately disclose contract terms that allowed it to automatically renew subscriptions and charge an early termination fee.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) deputy chair, Mick Keogh, said many subscribers were “unaware” that they had to specifically opt out of the automatic 12-month renewal system and were given a short cooling-off period to avoid paying an early termination fee.

“When some people attempted to cancel their auto-renewed contracts, they were told they would have to pay out the full 12-month term.”

Keogh said the rise of online marketplaces has led to an “increase in sneaky tactics” such as subscriptions that are difficult to get out.

“Businesses, including online platforms, must be clear and up-front with their customers about important contract terms such as renewals and cancellations. Failure to do so risks breaching the Australian Consumer Law and may result in enforcement action.”

Following ACCC’s investigation, the website has provided a court-enforceable undertaking under which it has “committed to clearly disclose its subscription renewal and cancellation policies” in its telephone scripts and emails.

The marketplace will also review its complaints handling system, review and seek to resolve outstanding complaints (including by remediation) and implement a consumer law compliance program.

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