Labor bill to support court access for small business

The Australian Labor Party introduced a bill into the Senate last week that it says, if passed into law, will help small businesses take cases of anti-competitive behaviour to court.

Currently, the ALP says, small businesses are less likely to take up private litigation against anti-competitive behaviour due to the significant risk of being overwhelmed and having to pay a big business’s legal fees.

The Competition and Consumer Legislation Amendment (Small Business Access to Justice) Bill 2017 recommends letting a small business request a ‘no-adverse-costs order’ early in a court case. If the judge decides that the case has merit, the small business will not have to pay the big business’s legal costs.

Labor says its proposed legislation will also enable the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman to provide professional assistance as to whether the no-adverse-costs order is likely to be successful. This, it adds, is in keeping with the Ombudsman’s current dispute-resolution mandate and will help to filter vexatious litigants from the process.

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