The ACCC yesterday released its 2019 enforcement priorities, and the focus was clearly on punishment and penalties.
During his annual address, ACCC Chair Rod Sims stated that there should be penalties of over AU$100 million for breaches of consumer law to improve deterrence. Further, that he wasn't going to talk about the importance of 'corporate culture' but rather 'punishment' – and that in his view the way to get the attention of very large companies was to affect shareholder value.
The ACCC also detailed the industries and types of conduct which will be targeted for ACCC enforcement action this year. Companies in the spotlight should review their compliance processes and ensure they have a strategy in place for responding to a regulatory enquiry.
2019 Compliance and Enforcement Priorities
This year, the ACCC is focusing on:
- Customer loyalty schemes
- Consumer guarantee rights in the context of large retailers and manufacturers that supply high-value consumer goods, including whitegoods and electrical goods
- Conduct that may contravene the misuse of market power or concerted practices prohibitions
- Misconduct in the franchising sector
- Anticompetitive conduct and competition issues in the financial services sector
- Advertising on social media, and particularly 'subscription traps' for young consumers
- Complexity and opacity of pricing in the energy and telecommunications sectors
- Business-to-business unfair contract terms, particularly in the agricultural sector
- The collection and use of consumer data by digital platforms
- Product safety including the Takata airbag recall and quad bikes
- Anticompetitive conduct in commercial construction markets.
In addition, the ACCC has confirmed its enduring priorities (unchanged from last year) which include:
- Cartel conduct
- Anticompetitive agreements and practices
- Product safety issues which have the potential to cause serious harm to consumers
- Conduct impacting vulnerable and disadvantaged consumers.
What should businesses targeted do?
As always, businesses in the ACCC's spotlight should assess their compliance with competition and consumer law and address any potential issues, particularly in light of the increased penalties under the ACL.
In addition to these 2019 enforcement priorities, the ACCC will
also be releasing separate Product Safety Priorities at the
National Consumer Congress in March 2019.
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