In brief: As the year comes to a close and we look forward to a new calendar year and all that it offers for our school communities, schools have to grapple with statutory changes to their enrolment terms and conditions to ensure that it is now compliant with recent changes to the Australian Consumer Law's unfair contract terms regime.


What is the change?

On 9 November 2023, the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) was changed to require certain types of standard form contracts to be amended to provide better protections to consumer rights. Unsurprisingly, this potentially includes parents in the school community.

We have written extensively on the changes to the ACL here.

How does this change impact my school?

The clearest way these changes to the ACL will impact your school is where your school rolls over its terms and conditions, which may be considered a standard form contract under the ACL. 

The changes to the ACL will apply to:

  • new standard form contracts entered into on or after the Commencement Date

  • existing standard form contracts that are renewed on or after the Commencement Date

  • a term of an existing standard form contract that is varied on or after the Commencement Date (it is important to note that the new regime will only apply to the terms which are varied)

If your school adopts this administrative process with respect to the distribution of its terms and conditions, then you are likely caught by the changes to the ACL.

When is the change occurring?

The changes to the ACL came into effect on 9 November 2023.

What happens if I do not comply with the change?

If your school is caught by the changes to the ACL outlined above and fails to act, it may make the school's ability to recover fees more difficult. 

In the recent decision of Brindabella Christian Education Ltd ACN 100 229 669 v Respondent XD 561 of 2021 (Civil Dispute) [2022] ACAT 37, the ACT Civil & Administrative Tribunal (ACAT) ruled that the school's contractual entitlement to one terms' minimum notice of withdrawal was a penalty and that the parents who, under the school's enrolment agreement, were purportedly liable for the changes, were held not to be liable to the school for the term's notice period payment. 

What can I do to meet the change?

The easiest way to meet the changes to the ACL is review your terms and conditions now before you issue new enrolment terms and conditions.

How can we help you meet the change?

It is not too late to implement these changes quickly and efficiently to your enrolment policies.

Moreover with these changes in place,  now is a good time to examine any contracts you enter into with your stakeholders to ensure their obligations to you are met under the changes to the ACL. 

This is commentary published by Colin Biggers & Paisley for general information purposes only. This should not be relied on as specific advice. You should seek your own legal and other advice for any question, or for any specific situation or proposal, before making any final decision. The content also is subject to change. A person listed may not be admitted as a lawyer in all States and Territories. © Colin Biggers & Paisley, Australia 2024.

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