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The ASEAN Committee on Consumer Protection launches the ASEAN Guideline on Unfair Contract Terms (UCT)

ASEAN , 13 June 2024

13 June 2024 - The ASEAN Committee on Consumer Protection (ACCP) launched the ASEAN Guidelines on Unfair Contract Terms (UCT Guidelines).  The guidelines provide key principles, good practices, recent regulatory developments as well as enforcement approaches, with the goal of supporting consumer protection authorities in ASEAN Member States (AMS) in adopting varying policies, legal provisions, and procedures for controlling and regulating UCT in consumer contracts. This, in turn, would assist the AMS to advancing consumer protection actions in line with the shared vision of cooperation and policy convergence within ASEAN.

In today's digital economy, consumer transactions in the ASEAN region are a major concern for both buyers and sellers. Online tools and technologies are constantly evolving, offering new and faster ways of interaction. Standard form contracts are designed to make agreements between sellers or suppliers and consumers more efficient and cost-effective. These contracts allow sellers or suppliers to unilaterally prepare a template with the terms and conditions for the supply of goods or services, without the need for prior negotiation with consumers.  Although standard-form contracts are not illegal and are widely accepted, authorities may administer laws to ensure that contract terms do not contain UCT, which may disadvantage the consumer in a transaction.  If UCT are found in the contracts, they may not be enforceable by the seller or supplier and could lead to legal action by consumer protection authorities.

The guideline contains several important components. It outlines key terms and principles, providing definitions for standard B2C contract terms that are deemed fair, made in good faith, and transparent. It also identifies blacklisted terms that should automatically be considered unenforceable in all cases. Additionally, the guideline contains a section on enforcement and education, offering suggestions for consumer protection authorities to collaborate with other entities, such as competition authorities, consumer associations, and private sectors, to share responsibilities and resources.

The development of the ASEAN UCT Guidelines is part of the ASEAN Strategic Action Plan on Consumer Protection (ASAPCP) 2025.  The Guideline was prepared with the support of the Deutsche Gesellschaft fuer Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, through the “Consumer Protection in ASEAN” (PROTECT) project funded by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) of Germany.  

Visit the ACCP Website (www.aseanconsumer.org) for more information.  Download the guidelines here.