Australia: Seven main priorities on ACCC's agenda for 2013 - does your business operate in a target area?

Last Updated: 15 March 2013
Article by Sara Dennis

Key Points:

Last year, well over half of the ACCC's work was within its priority areas so every business would be well advised to take a moment to consider its current set of priorities.

At the end of last month, the ACCC launched its revised "ACCC Compliance and Enforcement Policy" which provides business with some insight into its areas of focus for the coming year. Last year, well over half of the ACCC's work was within its priority areas so every business would be well advised to take a moment to consider its current set of priorities.

While anti-competitive and cartel conduct remain a key target for the ACCC, businesses which operate online, have standard form contracts, make premium claims (eg. "free range") or operate in the telecommunications, energy and supermarket sectors should prepare to be the subject of increased regulatory focus during 2013.

Summary of ACCC's 2013 priorities

Some of the ACCC's stated priorities for 2013 are new and others represent a renewed focus, but none are likely to come as a surprise to business. On one view, in the competition space, business may not regard the ACCC as having prioritised any particular areas. Notably, in launching the revised Compliance and Enforcement policy, ACCC Chairman Rod Sims stated that "strong enforcement" of competition and consumer laws remains at the top of the ACCC's list of priorities.

Competition focus for the ACCC in 2013

The ACCC will always prioritise regulatory challenges to the existence of cartels, anti-competitive agreements and the misuse of market. However, this year the ACCC has also signalled that it intends to pay particular attention to conduct which may impede emerging competition between online traders or limit the ability of small business to effectively compete in the online environment.

The ACCC is currently engaged in 20-30 investigations into anti-competitive behaviour. While openly acknowledging that these allegations are difficult to prove, the ACCC has renewed its commitment to enforcement. For example, in early February 2013, the ACCC launched proceedings in the Federal Court of Australia against Visa Inc. for breaches of the misuse of market power and exclusive dealing provisions in the Competition and Consumer Act.

Eradicating cartel conduct continues to be a focus for the ACCC and, recently, Rod Sims was keen to note that the Federal Court has awarded $126 million in six cartel matters since 2008. The ACCC appears to remain committed to sending a clear message to business that price fixing, market sharing and bid rigging will not be tolerated.

Business should also take heed of Rod Sims' fleeting reference in a recent speech to the criminal sanctions available to the ACCC for the past (almost) four years for cartel conduct. While noting that criminal charges in this area have not yet been laid, he indicated that the right matter will be pursued "with vigour".

The ACCC's consumer protection priorities

This year, the ACCC has a mix of old and new priorities in the area of consumer protection:

  • Telecommunications and energy sectors. Using the momentum gained from recent cases in which it has successfully challenged marketplace representations regarding technology (including the internet), the ACCC has signalled a continued focus on these sectors.
  • Consumer guarantees. Recent court proceedings instituted against Hewlett-Packard Australia Pty Ltd and a number of Harvey Norman franchisees signal an increase in enforcement activity. Apart from a continued focus on consumer education and prosecuting contraventions, the ACCC has, somewhat curiously, foreshadowed some changes in its activities in relation to consumer guarantees but has not yet provided any details.
  • Unfair contract terms will be examined more closely by the ACCC this year. It has revealed that contracts in a range of sectors including telecommunications, online trading, hire cars and airlines have recently been reviewed and it has given non-compliant businesses an opportunity to amend their standard form contracts.
  • Issues facing consumers online. Recognising the explosion of online markets, the ACCC will continue to monitor this environment with a particular focus on group buying websites and the reliance upon false testimonials and false reviews.
  • Credence (or premium) claims (being claims that suggest a product is superior in terms of its safety, quality or social/moral benefit, such as "free range eggs" or "fat free"). This is a new priority for the ACCC and there will be a particular focus on the food industry. Such claims can be made as long as they are not misleading and can be substantiated.
  • Carbon price claims continue to be monitored since the introduction of the carbon price in July 2012.
  • Consumer protection issues impacting on Indigenous communities.

What action should business take?

In view of the ACCC's clearly stated priorities, it is a timely reminder to business to review their product/service documentation and business practices.

  • If you operate online, in the telecommunications or energy sectors, or engage in door to door, and telephone, marketing practices (unsolicited consumer agreements), review your documentation to ensure compliance with the Competition and Consumer Act.
  • Standard form contracts are under scrutiny, especially if you have an online presence or are involved with hire cars, airlines or telecommunications.
  • Ensure documentation regarding your products and services complies with the consumer guarantee requirements regarding rights to refunds, repairs and replacements (and ensure your staff understand consumers' rights).
  • Ensure that you can substantiate claims made about your products/services, especially if you make a "credence/premium" claim or publish online testimonials/reviews.
  • Be careful if you intend to attribute price increases to the carbon price.

You might also be interested in...

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. Persons listed may not be admitted in all states and territories.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Mondaq Advice Centre (MACs)
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.