The ACCC is going gang busters on cartels. Not quite as
scary as the days of Pablo Escobar, but nonetheless, it's a
serious warning to Australian businesses.
First bust was a cartel between Colgate, Cussons and Unilever to
stop supplying standard concentrate laundry powder to Woolies.
Unilever was immune as the whistle-blower. Colgate paid $18M for
its involvement. Woolies just copped the biggest fine yet for an
accessory at $9M. Cussons' hearing is still to come.
Two other scalps include a company director inducing reduction
of egg supply and a bid rigging arrangement on a cable supply
tender. And the prosecutions just keep coming. The freshest meat
includes a polycarbonate roofing cartel and the very first exercise
of the criminal cartel provisions against a Japanese shipping
company in connection with the importation of vehicles.
The message? Tread very carefully in any dealing with
Snack food surprise!
Look out for your lunchboxes. Unilever and Smiths just copped
spot fines of $10,800 over snack food health claims. Surprisingly,
Rainbow Paddle Pops (fun fact - did you know they are caramel
flavoured?) and Pizza Supreme Rice Snacks don't quite count as
'healthy options' for school canteens.
Similarly, the ACCC is prosecuting Heinz for misleading
consumers in relation to its Little Kids Shredz products. Heinz
marketed the products as having equivalent nutritional value to
fruit and vegetables. Turns out they are actually over 60% sugar. A
Shredz a day certainly will not keep the doctor away.
Butt they are better than cigarettes?
On the topic of health, two e-cigarette online retailers (and
their CEOs) have had proceedings commenced against them for
representing on their websites that e-cigarette products did not
contain toxic chemicals such as those found in conventional
cigarettes. These representations went up in smoke upon independent
testing by the ACCC. With the jury still out on the benefits of the
vape, the outcome of this case will be one to watch out for.
Taking you to the (Medi)bank
The ACCC has issued Court proceedings against Medibank for
misleading and unconscionable conduct in relation to its
subsidiary, ahm, who allegedly limited the benefits paid to members
for in-hospital pathology and radiology without properly giving its
members advanced notice and adopting a strategy of keeping the
change contained. The ACCC alleges that Medibank did this to
ensure, for example, that its customers would not leave and its
reputation would be protected.
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The ACCC's view is that this will increase competition between major online travel sites for hotel bookings in Australia.
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