Worldwide: ´Dawn Raids´ - Do You Know What To Do?

Last Updated: 15 September 2008
Article by Fleur Gibbons


A 'dawn raid' is an unannounced visit, usually to your business but possibly also to your home, by the competition authority, in Australia the ACCC. Officers will usually arrive at the beginning of the day, when businesses are least prepared and capable of responding and can involve a search of your filing cabinets, your computer systems or even your car. Dawn raids are most commonly used for 'cartel busting'.

While dawns raids are historically very rare, the recent focus of ACCC enforcement activities on detecting and prosecuting cartels, the impending criminalisation of cartels in Australia, recent changes to the Trade Practices Act to extend the ACCC's search and seizure powers and the trend overseas towards the increasing use of dawn raids by regulators in the pursuit of cartels suggest that complacency is inadvisable. Rather than being taken by surprise by a 'dawn raid', it is important that your company has clear guidelines for employees to follow if the ACCC turns up one day. In this update we describe the steps you should take if the ACCC does seek to search your premises.


Recent amendments to the Trade Practices Act have extended the ACCC's powers to enter and search premises where it believes there may be material relevant to a contravention of the Act. Previously, the ACCC had the power to authorise a member of its staff to enter a company's premises and to inspect and copy documents where it had reason to believe that a person had contravened or was contravening the Trade Practices Act. The recent changes extend the ACCC's powers to enable it to search for and seize documents. However, under the new provisions the ACCC must obtain a search warrant from a Magistrate prior to entering premises without consent.

The ACCC can now search a company's premises in two ways:

  1. By obtaining a search warrant from a Magistrate.
  2. With the consent of the company.

The ACCC is permitted to search for and seize 'evidential material' which consists of documents or things that may afford evidence relating to a contravention of the Trade Practices Act, Part 20 of the Telecommunications Act 1997 or Part 9 of the Telecommunications (Consumer Protection and Service Standards) Act 1999.


We have prepared the following guides to assist your employees to deal with an ACCC search. These guides cover what to do if the ACCC:

  • Presents a search warrant for your company's premises.
  • Requests the company's consent to enter and search premises.

In addition to the information in the guides, staff confronted with an ACCC search should remain calm, not panic and deal politely with the ACCC officers.

If the ACCC conducts a search of your premises, you should also consider sending a member or members of your staff to other locations which the ACCC is likely to simultaneously search, for example, the CEO's home, a factory or warehouse (if applicable), or any suburban office(s) you may have.


If the ACCC presents a search warrant for your company's premises:

1. Do not obstruct entry of the ACCC onto the premises

When the ACCC arrives at your premises you should:

  • Ask to see the search warrant, and take a copy.
  • Ask to see the ACCC inspector's identity card and identification of any person assisting the inspector, and take a copy of that identification.
  • Where the ACCC inspector produces an identity card:
  • Ask the ACCC officers to wait in a meeting room until a senior manager or lawyer of your company arrives.
  • If the ACCC officers refuse to wait, permit them to enter, however make a note of why they refused to wait1.

If the inspector fails to produce an identity card at your request, you may refuse entry.

2. Call senior managers and lawyers

Immediately call senior management and your company's lawyers (either in-house legal counsel or external lawyers) to inform them of the ACCC's presence and the search warrant. Inform them of the number of ACCC officers present, so that they can arrange for sufficient company representatives to be present to monitor each ACCC officer's search. Up to date contact details should be available to reception staff/security guards who are likely to be the first to encounter the ACCC officers.

3. Fully inform your lawyer of the contents of the warrant

You should advise your lawyer of the specific details contained in the search warrant. Ideally, your lawyer should sight a copy of the warrant. This will enable your lawyer to determine whether the search warrant is valid and advise on its scope and how the company can comply with it.

For a search warrant to be valid, it must set out the following:

  • The address and a description of the premises to which the warrant relates.
  • The kind of 'evidential material' that is to be searched for under that warrant.
  • The contraventions of the Trade Practices Act to which the warrant relates.
  • The name of the inspector who is to be responsible for executing the warrant.
  • The times at which the warrant may be executed (it may be executable at any time of the day or night, or during specified hours).
  • The day (not more than one week after the issue of the warrant) on which the warrant ceases to have effect.

4. Monitor the ACCC's search

As long as they do not impede the search, your staff and/or your lawyers should:

  • Accompany each ACCC officer at all times while they are on your premises.
  • Prepare a list of all documents viewed or copied by each ACCC officer.
  • Try to ensure that only material covered by the warrant is taken in the search.

In the event that an ACCC officer wishes to remove documents from the premises, if possible, you should make a copy of the documents. If a copy cannot be made on the premises, you should request the ACCC provide you with a copy of those documents as soon as practicable after the seizure.

If the ACCC seize a thing under a search warrant, you should request a receipt for the thing from the officer.

5. You should assist the ACCC

During the search you should:

  • Provide the ACCC officers with all reasonable facilities and assistance.
  • Answer questions asked by the officers.
  • Upon request, produce evidential material to which the warrant relates.

Failure to comply is an offence under the Trade Practices Act with a maximum penalty of $3,300.

Ideally, you should have a lawyer with you when you answer the ACCC's questions. You should only answer the question if it relates to the search warrant and should not volunteer extra information that has not been requested. Make a note of any questions asked by the ACCC officers and your answer.

You should take care not to make any false statements. In addition, you should be aware that you are not excused from answering a question or producing material on the grounds it might incriminate you.

6. Do not give ACCC officers documents subject to legal professional privilege

You are not required to give ACCC officers documents that are subject to legal professional privilege2. These are documents which contain communications between your company and its lawyers for the purpose of receiving legal advice.

Documents you know are subject to legal professional privilege should be put in a secure container and given to your lawyer.

If you are unable to verify whether documents are subject to legal professional privilege you should expressly reserve the company's right to continue to claim privilege. You should take a copy or make a note of the documents concerned and request that the documents be stored separately from the other documents and not reviewed by the ACCC until the privilege issue is resolved.

7. What powers does the ACCC have under a search warrant?

The ACCC officers may do any of the following after entering the premises:

  • Search the premises for and seize 'evidential material' specified in the warrant.
  • Make copies of that material.
  • Operate electronic equipment at the premises, such as computers, to see if the kind of material specified in the warrant is accessible by doing so.
  • Take equipment and material onto the premises, and use it for any of the above.
  • Seize other material not specified in the warrant where the officer believes it is evidence of an indictable offence against the Trade Practices Act, Part 20 of the Telecommunications Act 1997 or Part 9 of the Telecommunications (Consumer Protection and Service Standards) Act 1999 and s/he believes it is necessary to seize that material to prevent the concealment, loss or destruction of the material.


If the ACCC seeks to enter your premises by consent:

1. Do not give consent

Your staff should have clear instructions that they are not authorised to give consent on behalf of the company to the ACCC to enter the premises.

In any case, the ACCC must inform the person that they may refuse consent. Further, the consent of a person is not effective unless it is voluntary.

If your company refuses the search and the ACCC wishes to persist with the search, it must obtain a search warrant from a Magistrate.

2. Call designated person immediately

Staff should ask to see the ACCC officers' identity cards and immediately contact a designated person to deal with the request. The designated person will generally be your company's lawyer (either in-house legal counsel, or external lawyers). The designated person should be the only person authorised to either grant or refuse consent to the ACCC to proceed with their search.

Up to date contact details of the designated person should be available to reception staff and security guards who are likely to be the first to encounter the ACCC officers.

Ask the ACCC officers to wait in a meeting room until the designated person arrives.

The designated person should ascertain the reason for and scope of the ACCC's search.

3. What if the ACCC proceeds without consent?

If the ACCC proceeds with their search without a warrant and without consent you should immediately contact your company's lawyer and/or the police.

4. What to do while a search takes place

If consent is given and a search takes place, you should:

  • Closely monitor the search (see section 4 of Guide 1).
  • Not give ACCC officers documents subject to legal professional privilege (see section 6 of Guide 1).

5. What search and seizure powers do the ACCC have, where consent is given?

The ACCC officers may do any of the following after entering the premises:

  • Search the premises (including anything on the premises) for 'evidential material'.
  • Make copies of the material.
  • Operate electronic equipment to see whether the material is accessible.
  • Remove evidential material from the premises but only with the consent of the owner of the material (the ACCC officer must inform the person of the purpose for which the material is required and that the person may refuse consent).
  • Secure material, pending the obtaining of a search warrant to seize it.
  • Take equipment and material onto the premises, and use it for any of the above.

Phillips Fox has changed its name to DLA Phillips Fox because the firm entered into an exclusive alliance with DLA Piper, one of the largest legal services organisations in the world. We will retain our offices in every major commercial centre in Australia and New Zealand, with no operational change to your relationship with the firm. DLA Phillips Fox can now take your business one step further − by connecting you to a global network of legal experience, talent and knowledge.

This publication is intended as a first point of reference and should not be relied on as a substitute for professional advice. Specialist legal advice should always be sought in relation to any particular circumstances and no liability will be accepted for any losses incurred by those relying solely on this publication.

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.