Rights and protection


A contract is a legal agreement which involves an exchange of goods or services for money.

Written and spoken contracts

Contracts can be written or verbal, but a written contract:

  • can make it easier to prove the specific terms of the agreement
  • is a hard copy so you can prove there was an agreement
  • doesn’t rely on someone’s memory of the details.

If you are entering into a verbal contract, always ask for details about:

  • what services are being provided
  • the costs - eg the price for carpet cleaning a standard size room, ask what is ‘standard’?

Australian Consumer law protects you against unfair contract terms, but you should always:

  • read contracts carefully before signing
  • keep copies of contracts in a safe place
  • say 'no' if you feel pressured to agree to something you aren’t sure about.

You can agree to make changes to a contract but both parties need to agree to the details.

Before entering into a contract

Don’t sign a contract unless you:

  • have read it
  • understand it
  • agree with it.

If you are unsure about part of a contract, get some legal advice before signing. Generally, once all parties sign the contract, it is legally binding.

Breaking a contract

A contract breach happens when someone doesn’t do what they agreed to do: they break the contract. A court can enforce a contract, ordering people to stick to their original agreement. The court could also order people pay compensation to the other party.

Making a consumer complaint

Contact Consumer and Business Services (CBS) for consumer advice. CBS can help if you have a problem with a trader but there are some simple steps you can take before lodging a formal complaint.

Making a consumer complaint offers advice and a checklist to guide you through resolving problems with a trader.

Legal assistance

Contact the Legal Services Commission on 1300 366 424 or visit Legal Services Commission of South Australia if you need legal advice about contracts.

Related information

A guide to the unfair contract terms law - Consumer and Business Services
Contracts - Australian Competition and Consumer Commission

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Page last updated 29 November 2016

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Attorney-General's Department
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