24/09/2009 - 15:08

Labor puts plan to protect retailers

24/09/2009 - 15:08

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The state opposition says an independent small business commissioner and changes to the commercial tenancy act will better protect the rights of small retail businesses compared to amendments proposed by the Barnett government.

Labor puts plan to protect retailers

The state opposition says an independent small business commissioner and changes to the commercial tenancy act will better protect the rights of small retail businesses compared to amendments proposed by the Barnett government.

 

 

The announcement is below:

 

Labor will today move to introduce its small business protection package to protect the rights of WA small retail businesses.

Shadow Consumer Protection Minister Fran Logan and Shadow Small Business Minister Ljiljanna Ravlich said Labor's Private Members Bill would establish an independent Small Business Commissioner and introduce amendments to the Commercial Tenancy (Retail Shops) Agreement Act.

"An independent Small Business Commissioner will have new powers to assist small businesses across Western Australia and will guarantee fair and balanced resolutions to disputes between small retail businesses and landlords," Mr Logan said.

"In a new watchdog role, the Small Business Commissioner would take action where tenants' rights had been breached.

"The Commissioner would establish guidelines for leases and maintain a public State wide register of retail tenancies.

"This is important to provide greater certainty and transparency for all WA small retail businesses.

Unlike the Barnett Government's Small Business Advocate, the Small Business Commissioner is a statutory role independent from Ministerial control or direction in mediation and would be a position held concurrently by the Consumer Protection Commissioner.

Mr Logan said the rights of small business would be further protected by changes to the Commercial Tenancy (Retail Shops) Agreement Act.

"The amendments aim to address the imbalance between the rights of small business retail shop tenants and the rights of the landlords they deal with, in many cases large well-resourced corporations," he said.

"Landlords would no longer be able to establish lease provisions requiring access to a tenant's turnover statements without a tenant's consent and any attempt to do so would result in a fine of between $10,000 to $100,000.

"The amendments will also prevent small business retail shops from being forced to have their trading hours dictated by landlords rather than their own commercial judgement and would control linking rent to business turnover."

Labor's changes also aim to give greater certainty over the process of managing renewal and termination of leases.

"Labor has insured that the amendments do not place unreasonable requirements on landlords and would not deter investment in the retail property sector," he said.

Mr Logan said the impact of the economic downturn and pressures from existing and prospective changes to retail tenancy arrangements had spurred Labor's move.

Shadow Small Business Minister Ljiljanna Ravlich said small businesses across Western Australia would welcome Labor's proposed changes.

"Small business makes an enormous contribution to our State economy and is often the life-blood of communities in WA," Ms Ravlich said. "We need to give small businesses greater protection to ensure they grow and prosper."

Ms Ravlich said Labor was still waiting to see the Barnett Government's legislative changes promised by Commerce Minister Troy Buswell last month.

Labor's Plan to Amend the Commercial Tenancy (Retail Shops) Agreements Act 1985 to give greater protection to Small Retail Shops.

Labor is introducing legislation that:

1. Assigns functions and powers to an independent Commissioner for Small Business to manage relations between small retail tenants and their landlords and to mediate disputes.

2. Protects small retail shops' turnover information and removes turnover as a rent setting factor unless by agreement. Establishes a penalty of $10,000 to $100,000 in range.

3. Removes and voids any lease requirements on a retail shop to open at specified hours or times and/or to pay outgoings for any time the shop is not open.

4. Requires a landlord's intentions at the end of a lease to be made known in writing to the tenant not less than three and not more than 12 months before the expiry.

5. Prohibits a landlord advertising or inviting interest in the availability of a premise for leasing to the detriment of an existing tenant.

6. Requires that the Commissioner is notified in writing within 14 days of the details of a lease and that this information is to be kept in a publicly available register.

7. Guarantees that the Commissioner is independent from Ministerial control or direction in mediation, proceedings for offenses and eliminating conduct contrary to the Act.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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