Recent Cases

Australian Securities and Investments Commission v Kobelt [2019] HCA 18 (12 June 2019) (Kiefel CJ, Bell, Gageler, Keane, Nettle, Gordon and Edelman JJ)


Trade practices – Consumer protection – Unconscionable conduct – Where s 12CB(1) of Australian Securities and Investments Commission Act 2001 (Cth) relevantly prohibited “unconscionable” conduct in trade or commerce in connection with supply or possible supply of financial services – Where respondent provided “book-up” credit to Anangu customers of general store – Where book-up credit allowed deferral of whole or part of payment for goods subject to respondent retaining customer’s debit card and personal identification number – Where respondent used debit card to withdraw whole or nearly whole of wages or Centrelink payments shortly after credited to prevent customers having practical opportunity to access monies – Where respondent applied part of withdrawn funds to reduce customer’s indebtedness and made remainder available for provision of future goods and services – Where respondent’s record-keeping inadequate and often illegible – Where customers vulnerable due to remoteness, limitations on education, impoverishment and low levels of financial literacy – Where book-up system “tied” Anangu customers to general store – Where customers had understanding of basic elements of book-up system – Where withdrawals authorised by customers – Where customers generally supportive of book-up and respondent’s business – Where book-up protected customers from cultural practices requiring sharing of resources with certain categories of kin – Where book-up ameliorated effects of “boom and bust” cycle of expenditure and allowed purchase of food between pay days – Whether respondent’s conduct unconscionable within meaning of s 12CB(1) of Act.

Words and phrases – “agency”, “book-up”, “credit”, “cultural practices”, “demand sharing”, “dishonesty”, “exploitation”, “financial literacy”, “humbugging”, “inequality of bargaining power”, “legitimate interests”, “moral obloquy”, “passive acceptance”, “power imbalance”, “special disadvantage”, “standard of conscience”, “system or pattern of conduct”, “transparency or accountability”, “unconscientious conduct”, “unconscionable conduct”, “undue influence”, “unfair”, “unjust”, “unwritten law”, “victimisation”, “voluntary”, “vulnerability”.