Regulator drags PayPal to court

3 mins read

PayPal, the global payment service giant, finds itself embroiled in a legal battle on the Australian front, as the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has initiated legal proceedings against PayPal Australia. The regulatory authority alleges that PayPal’s contractual terms with small businesses are inherently unjust, particularly focusing on a contentious clause that restricts businesses to a mere 60-day window for disputing fees or charges levied by the payment service.

Under the contentious clause in PayPal’s contractual framework, if a business fails to contest fees or charges within the stipulated 60-day timeframe, it is deemed to have tacitly accepted these charges as accurate. ASIC vehemently opposes this provision, asserting that it unfairly empowers PayPal to retain overcharged or erroneously imposed fees, leaving businesses at a disadvantage if they do not detect and rectify these charging errors within the prescribed period.

Sarah Court, the deputy chair of ASIC, conveyed the regulator’s determination in pursuing this legal action, stating that ASIC has commenced this action to protect the interests of small businesses.

Furthermore, ASIC contends that this contractual term engenders a substantial imbalance in the rights and obligations of the contracting parties, arguing that it is not reasonably necessary to safeguard PayPal’s legitimate interests. The regulator asserts that this term would inflict detriment upon PayPal business account holders if it were to be enforced.

In response to ASIC’s legal action, PayPal Australia has adopted a cautious stance. A spokesperson for the company acknowledged the gravity of the situation, stating, it is working in full cooperation with ASIC and take the matter very seriously. They also noted that it would not be appropriate to comment in detail on proceedings before the court; adding, however, that the firm is carefully reviewing the claims.

This legal skirmish marks the second major court action initiated by ASIC within the same week. Prior to taking on PayPal, ASIC filed a lawsuit against Westpac, alleging the bank’s failure to respond adequately to 229 customers’ hardship notices. Additionally, this marks the third instance of ASIC pursuing legal action against entities for alleged unfair contract terms this year, with previous cases involving Auto & General Insurance in April and HCF Life Insurance in May.

As this legal battle unfolds in the Australian Federal Court, it will undoubtedly draw the attention of legal experts and financial analysts, as the outcome could have far-reaching implications for the broader financial services industry in Australia, potentially reshaping the landscape of contractual agreements between businesses and service providers.