By Brad Newton, vice president, Australia and New Zealand, DocuSign
From next week, millions of contractual agreements between large and small businesses will need to be updated following changes to Australia’s national unfair contract laws.
The changes are aimed at removing any terms that could be considered to be unfair when large companies deal with small businesses – from the provision of financial services, through to selling premises and land. The changes come into place on 12 November 2016.
It’s undoubtedly a positive move for small organisations. Smaller parties often suffer from an imbalance of power when negotiating with larger organisations, a ‘take it or leave it’ mentality which can result in loss of capital and resources.
However, it also is potentially a legal and administrative nightmare for many larger organisations that regularly do business with organisations with less than 20 people – particularly if that larger business is still reliant on paper based processes.
An example would be an internet or telecommunications provider with tens of thousands of small business customers. Under the terms of the contract, the provider has the right to change its prices or services at any time; without prior notice to the business. However this may change in the new regulatory environment. Checking contractual compliance across an entire customer base using a paper-only approach means months, maybe even years, of work for administrative teams.
Not only do terms need to be updated, larger companies such as in the example above, will also need to make sure that the new contracts only apply to those small businesses that employ less than 20 people. Under guidelines provided by the ACCC, large businesses need to take reasonable steps to seeking assurance that their customers fall under this criteria.
During the past year DocuSign has been working with companies throughout Australia to reduce this momentous administrative task, allowing companies to update terms and secure agreement with small businesses in hours – not days, weeks or months – from anywhere on digital devices. This includes preparing updated agreements using existing documents and data from other systems to further minimise time.
We’ve also been working on deploying products with the legal, financial and professional services industries to better help with customer compliance. This includes allowing these businesses to securely retain documents and data in the DocuSign cloud, or their own systems with complete digital audit trails to ensure compliance and confirm the validity and legal enforceability of all transactions.
These new laws will help protect small businesses during the negotiation process, allowing small businesses to reach their full potential.
We encourage all our customers to call DocuSign on 1-800-255-982 so we can digitise the last mile of your paper processes, and take advantage of the increased leverage your contracts will have.