On 19 February 2015 ACCC Chairman Mr Rod Sims outlined the
regulator's compliance and enforcement priorities for 2015.
For industries such as franchising which are subject to specific
ACCC regulation, this is always of interest but all companies
operating businesses in Australia are subject to the Competition
and Consumer Act 2010 (Act) and should understand the areas on
which the ACCC elects to focus to ensure that they have their
compliance house in order.
The four enduring priorities of the ACCC remain:
anti-competitive agreements and practices;
misuse of market power; and
To quote Mr. Sims "The detriment caused to both
consumers and competition means these forms of conduct will always
be in our sights."
Conduct involving pricing and dealings with competitors and
suppliers all have the potential to fall foul of the Act's
provisions and can lead to enforcement action by the ACCC.
The new additional priority areas for 2015 are as follows:
Medical and health sector
The focus will include anti-competitive conduct such as attempts
to limit access to products, patients, procedures or facilities and
allegations of unconscionable conduct and misleading and deceptive
conduct by medical professionals.
Stronger Enforcement of Industry Codes
On 1 January 2015 the ACCC received new powers to enforce the
mandatory Franchising Code of Conduct (Franchising Code) by the
issue of infringement notices of $8,500 for companies ($1,700 for
individuals and other entities) where the ACCC has reason to
believe there has been a contravention of the Franchising Code.
For serious breaches of certain Franchising Code provisions it
can seek penalties of up to $51,000 from the Court.
In addition a new Code of Conduct has just been introduced for
the grocery sector, the Food and Grocery Code of Conduct.
Like the Franchising Code it requires the industry participants to
act in good faith, and provides a dispute resolution process. It
also sets out minimum standards and prohibits certain conduct and
provisions in supply arrangements.
A retailer or wholesaler must sign up for the new Code to be
bound but suppliers are not required to sign up to the Code. They
will be covered by the Code whenever they deal with a retailer or
wholesaler that has agreed to be bound by the Code.
For 2015, the ACCC will concentrate on "emerging
systemic consumer issues in the online marketplace" such
as significant delays by online businesses in addressing consumer
Highly concentrated sectors
Competition and consumer issues in highly concentrated sectors
such as the fuel and supermarket sectors will remain a
Truth in advertising
Misleading advertising claims will be a target particularly if
they are made by large businesses with the potential to result in
significant consumer detriment, or where the conduct is likely to
become widespread if the ACCC does not intervene.
...and the rest
The remaining ACCC priorities for 2015 are carbon tax repeal to
ensure the full pass through of the carbon tax removal, scam
disruption, particularly dating and romance relationship scams, and
conduct affecting vulnerable consumers such as indigenous
consumers, older consumers, and consumers who are newly arrived in
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