The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) yesterday (20 February 2012) released a new policy document outlining the ACCC's priority areas for enforcement and compliance for the year ahead.
The policy states that the ACCC will give enforcement priority to matters that demonstrate one or more of the following factors:
• conduct of significant public interest or concern
• conduct resulting in a substantial consumer (including small business) detriment
• unconscionable conduct, particularly involving large national companies or traders
• conduct demonstrating a blatant disregard for the law
• conduct involving issues of national or international significance
• conduct detrimentally affecting disadvantaged or vulnerable consumer groups
• conduct in concentrated markets which impacts on small business consumers or suppliers
• conduct involving a significant new or emerging market issue
• conduct that is industry-wide or is likely to become widespread if the ACCC does not intervene
• where ACCC action is likely to have a worthwhile educative or deterrent effect, and/or
• where the person, business or industry has a history of previous contraventions of competition, consumer protection or fair trading laws.
The ACCC also states that is currently prioritising its work in the following areas:
• consumer protection in the telecommunications and energy sectors
• online competition and consumer issues including conduct which may impede emerging competition between online traders or limit the ability of small businesses to effectively compete online
• competition and consumer issues in highly concentrated sectors, in particular in the supermarket and fuel sectors
• credence claims, particularly those in the food industry with the potential to have a significant impact on consumers or the competitive process
• misleading carbon pricing representations
• the consumer guarantees regime under the Australian Consumer Law
• consumer protection issues impacting on Indigenous consumers.
Business operating in these sectors would be well-advised to ensure that they implement a trade practices compliance program to minimise the risk of adverse ACCC action.
The ACCC administers the Competition and Consumer Act, including the Australian Consumer Law. That legislation aims to:
• promote competition among business
• promote fair trading by business
• provide for the protection of consumers in their dealings with business.
The policy can be found at: http://www.accc.gov.au/content/index.phtml/itemId/867964. Further information in relation to trade practices compliance programs can be found at: http://www.accc.gov.au/content/index.phtml/itemId/54418
For further information, please feel free to contact me.