The ACCC has given fair warning that it will use its new
powers under the Australian Consumer Law, and scrutinise particular
sectors and behaviours.
Telcos, fuel, energy, supermarkets and online businesses have
particular reason to ensure compliance with competition and
consumer laws this year – the ACCC will be paying
particular attention to you.
ACCC Chairman Rod Simms outlined the regulator's priorities
for 2012 last week, and launched its updated Compliance and
Its priorities fall under five main headings:
Using the new ACL powers
The changes in Australian Consumer Law , described by Mr Sims as
"profound", offer more regulatory options to the ACCC,
which is keen to explore them in conjunction with the State and
A main focus this year will be misleading and deceptive conduct,
the energy industry: Chairman Sims cites
representations on savings, and services to find the best available
prices, as having the potential to mislead consumers;
carbon pricing: the ACCC will be particularly
vigilant for claims incorrectly attributing a price increase to the
Maintain or enhance competition in concentrated markets
Fuel and supermarkets will be under the ACCC microscope this
year. Chairman Sims says:
"The ACCC has not yet formed the view that there are
breaches of the Act occurring; but our priority in 2012 will be to
determine whether or not there are breaches in these important
Other priorities will be:
unconscionable conduct between
online business: lower barriers to entry make
it easier for new entrants to take on established players, so
misuse of market power will be a key concern;
cartel education and enforcement: "The
available evidence suggests that many business people are not aware
that price fixing, market sharing, bid rigging, agreeing
restrictions on supply or output constitutes cartel activity.
Unfortunately it may be that the ACCC needs to take enforcement
action, including criminal prosecutions, to get the message
mergers: the ACCC will be making commercial
assessments and not relying on abstract theory.
Invigorate the debate on the effective regulation of
The regulatory underpinnings of the future operation of the NBN
will be determined this year. In addition, there will be discussion
on the future shape of regulation of Australia's major airports
and electricity networks.
One topic that the ACCC says needs discussion is the regime for
access to infrastructure in Part IIIA, "particularly how
relevant they are to greenfield investment such as new railways in
the Galilee basin and, say, new inter-modal transport facilities in
our capital cities."
Particular focus on vulnerable consumers
Elderly and Indigenous consumers can be particularly vulnerable,
and the ACCC will put more emphasis on them this year.
ACCC's international engagement
This has two aspects: international co-operation between
regulators to deal with multi-jurisdictional issues, and helping
developing countries in the region establish and maintain their
Clayton Utz communications are intended to provide
commentary and general information. They should not be relied upon
as legal advice. Formal legal advice should be sought in particular
transactions or on matters of interest arising from this bulletin.
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