ACCC’s key targets for 2017

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has recently published its Compliance and Enforcement policy which sets out where it will focus its attention and resources during 2017.

Focus areas in 2017

The ACCC’s enforcement team will be concentrating on misleading and deceptive practices, anti-competitive conduct and unfair contract terms, with the health, construction and agriculture sectors being a particular focus.

The ACCC has stated it intends to instigate more criminal prosecutions relating to cartel conduct over the next couple of years. Similarly, it will continue to invest in staff training and other resources in investigating cases of substantial lessening of competition. For the Agriculture sector, consultation is taking place in the cattle, beef, grain and horticulture markets to ensure the protections intended by the Horticulture Code are felt by growers.

Competition in the health sector remains a priority.  The ACCC will also have a newly-established team focussing on anti-competitive conduct in the commercial construction sector.

Consumers and small businesses

Along with these focus areas, the ACCC has confirmed it will also direct its attention to:

  • Unfair contract terms as they apply to small businesses (the new laws commenced in November 2016)
  • Protections afforded through the Franchising Code
  • Payment surcharges for larger businesses (and smaller businesses from 1 September 2017 onwards)
  • Broadband speed and claims made by internet providers
  • Consumer guarantees with a spotlight on the airline, telecommunications and motor vehicle industries
  • Private health insurance
  • Commission-based sales
  • Product safety.

Great partnerships, bigger penalties

The ACCC is also expected to up the ante on:

  • Penalties – In a recent speech delivered by the Chairman of the ACCC, Mr Rod Sims stated the ACCC intends to actively pursue higher and more significant penalties for contraventions, aiming to deter breaches of the law and the subsequent impact on consumers.
  • Working with other agencies – The ACCC will be actively referring matters to relevant State and Territory agencies and Ombudsman services to better support and investigate consumer issues as they arise. This will also involve working with specialist regulators such as the Therapeutic Goods Association, Food Safety Australia and New Zealand and building, electrical and gas safety regulators where appropriate. This approach aims to ensure the best-placed agency will handle complaints, and recognises the role of specialist regulators in protecting consumers.

The ACCC has emphasised the need for a high level of compliance with the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Cth) (CCA) for the market economy to work properly and this fails when consumers are misled or restrictions on competition occur unlawfully.

If you have any questions about how Macpherson Kelley can assist you in complying with your obligations under the CCA or industry Codes of Conduct, please contact Paul Kirton 03 9794 2621 or Kelly Dickson 03 9794 2541.

This article was written by Georgia Davies-Jackson, Lawyer – Commercial