The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission
(ACCC), together with the Australian Energy
Regulator (AER), have confirmed they will attempt
to resolve any dispute as early as possible, and by the simplest
and most cost-effective means, in a new
Dispute Management Plan and Dispute Management Policy. These
documents set out the approach of the ACCC and AER to the
management and resolution of disputes, including court proceedings.
The Plan and the Policy are designed to cover all litigation and
disputes in which either the ACCC or the AER may become involved
and address how the ACCC and the AER will conduct themselves in
So what have the ACCC and AER said they will do when taking
The Plan and Policy confirm that, where necessary, the
regulators will take legal action when they consider that
litigation is the most appropriate way to achieve enforcement and
They also set out a basic commitment to the management of
disputes in a "courteous, professional and respectful
manner", as well as some basic principles by which the
ACCC/AER will abide:
to resolve disputes as early as possible and by the simplest
and most cost-effective means that will achieve the best possible
outcome for the community;
where a process is prescribed by legislation, to act in
accordance with statutory obligations;
to take genuine steps to resolve or clarify disputes both
before and throughout any court or tribunal proceedings; and
to manage disputes in a transparent, fair and consistent
The Policy goes a step further than these principles, and
includes the statement that the regulators will manage disputes so
as to uphold the Australian Public Service Commission Values of
being impartial, committed to service, accountable, respectful and
ethical, as well as the following complementary values:
Independent: pursue the interests of the Australian community,
objectively and transparently;
Expert: make timely decisions based on evidence and rigorous
Strategic: make best use of resources taking considered and
targeted action; and
Trustworthy: communicate honestly and directly and act
ACCC and AER confirm they are bound by the model litigant
The Policy expressly confirms the regulators will act in
accordance with the Legal Services Directions 2005, amongst other
statutory rules, which include the directions to Commonwealth
agencies commonly known as the "model litigant rules".
Those rules contain an obligation on the Commonwealth and its
agencies to act honestly and fairly in handling claims and
litigation brought by or against the Commonwealth.
So what do these documents mean if you are engaged in a dispute
with the ACCC?
You can expect the ACCC to satisfy the statutory obligations of
a law enforcement agency, but in a way that meets the terms and
objectives of the Plan and Policy.
You can expect the ACCC, consistent with its obligations in the
Policy, to have provided the Plan and Policy to any external law
firm instructed to act for it, and to have required that firm to
deal with the matter in way that is consistent with terms of the
Plan and Policy.
You can expect the ACCC to attempt to resolve any dispute as
early as possible, and by the simplest and most cost-effective
means that will achieve the outcome sought.
And, should the ACCC's conduct, or that of its staff or
retained law firm, not be consistent with the Policy, there is a
complaints process to be followed which provides for escalation to
The Plan and Policy are simple documents, written in simple
terms, and the message is clear: in disputes with the ACCC or AER,
you can expect each agency to abide by the terms of the Plan and
Policy and the values in them.
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
To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.
Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.
The Sportscraft refunds and returns policy limitations went beyond consumer's rights under the Australian Consumer Law.
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”
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).