“At Bunnings, lower prices are just the beginning, we’ll also take your house!” Yes, it must be time for the hardware giant to upgrade its pesky jingle and perhaps introduce a new “Lowest Act Guarantee”.

Why is that? If you have an account with Bunnings, delve back into the small print of your Bunnings PowerPass terms & conditions and you will find Bunnings has taken a charge over all your land. Not just all your land now; no, not on your nellie. Bunnings also has taken a charge over all your land in future too. Bunnings is forever.

We asked Bunnings if Bunnings thought it had the right, not only to take the land of its customers, forever, but also take the things on the customer’s land like its customer’s fridge.

No response was forthcoming.  No response either to this question:

“Under these obligations if, for instance, a customer were to default on payment for a garden hoe and Bunnings were to exercise its charge and take the customer’s land, would the customer be reimbursed from the proceeds of the sale of the land the balance between the value of the land and the hoe? Or does Bunnings reserve its rights to accept the balance post-sale of the land?”

As one dismayed Bunnings customer told michaelwest.com.au:

“I find this demand for a charge over unlimited amounts of property in exchange for a trade account with no credit terms rather extraordinary.”

Funny, Bunnings didn’t think it was extraordinary. Although, we almost had to rush out to our nearest Bunnings to purchase the special, lowest-prices, injection-mould “Blood-out-of-Stone” Bunnings range of pliars to obtain a comment from Bunnings, eventually this illuminating statement arrived from Bunnings managing director Michael Schneider:

“This is an ordinary trading arrangement with commercial/business account customers and all details are well documented in our terms and conditions. Such arrangements are standard practice in the industry and we have had these in place for over 15 years”.

There you have it. De rigeur. Charges over all customer land forever are so yesterday. Pfff, everybody in the hardware business with an account facility has a charge over their customers’ land.

Every tradie knows that. Hundreds of thousands of hectares of land around the country, all stitched up with Bunnings charges. And of course, according to Bunnings, the charges of its peers.

The rub for customers, indeed for competition policy, is that its peers are falling apart. Bunnings is even buying up some of the stores of the collapsing Woolworth’s hardware empire Masters. It is just another headache for the competition watchdog.

This “lowest prices” thing means even less competition because Bunnings rivals know there is little point in lowering prices and Bunnings will simply match and everybody’s margins will be ruined.

Truth is Bunnings is not cheap – ten per cent profit margins versus five per cent margins for its parent Wesfarmers’ flagship retail business Coles. Revenues shot up 21 per cent last year. Brilliant for shareholders, not so great for customers, and as for account-holders, here is the fine print:  

BUNNINGS ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS FOR POWERPASS ACCOUNTS

(b) I acknowledge and accept that, by submitting this application for a credit facility to be provided by Bunnings, I give the Customer’s agreement to be bound by the PowerPass Usage Terms and Conditions if this application is accepted; and
(c) I particularly acknowledge that, under clause 13 of the PowerPass Usage Terms and Conditions, the Customer, in consideration of Bunnings accepting this application and in order to secure repayment of all moneys payable by the Customer to Bunnings, grants a charge, as beneficial owner and as trustee of any trust, in favour of Bunnings, all of the Customer’s right, title and interest in land (held now or in the future, wherever located); and