ACCC issues it's annual compliance and enforcement priorities for 2019 - JHK Legal Commercial Lawyers

22 March 2019

ACCC issues it’s annual compliance and enforcement priorities for 2019

The Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC) has announced its enforcement priorities for 2019. These are relevant for retail and consumer-facing businesses who deal directly with consumer guarantees, customer loyalty schemes, advertising on social media platforms, collecting and using consumer date and franchising agreements.

In short, the ACCC’s 2019 Compliance and Enforcement priorities include:

  • Consumer guarantees on high value electrical and whitegoods products, in particular those supplied by large retailers and manufacturers.
    • This is being given attention following on from the high volume of complaints received by the ACCC in 2018 regarding failure of high value consumer goods e.g. whitegoods, electrical goods.
  • Conduct that may contravene the misuse of market power provisions and the concerted practices provisions.
  • Anti-competitive conduct and competition issues in the financial services sector, including issues in the financial services sector, including issues with respect to foreign exchange services.
  • Consumer and competition issues arising from opaque and complex pricing of essential services, especially those in energy and telecommunications.
  • The impact on consumers arising from the collection and use of consumer data by digital platforms, with a focus on the transparency of data practices and the adequacy of disclosure to consumers.
    • This is one of the more notable priorities as the ACCC will be advancing its work on Consumer Data Right (CDR). This allows consumers to use their data freely in a manner that enables them to compare products and services. The ACCC plans to start with banking and move to other sectors e.g. telecommunications and energy, with the hopes that consumer data to be first shared in February 2020.
  • Competition and consumer issues arising from customer loyalty schemes.
  • Emerging consumer issues in advertising and subscription service practices on social media platforms, with a focus on the impact on younger consumers.
    • This is due to the complaints received by the ACCC about the detrimental impact of social media advertising practices upon younger consumers. The ACCC aims to provide more of a focus upon ‘subscription traps’ by online retailers who entice retailers with discounted prices in exchange for a paid subscription or membership service.
  • Ensuring that small businesses receive the protections under the CCA, with a focus on the Franchising Code of Conduct and unfair contract terms.
  • Competition and fair trading issues in the agriculture sector, with a focus on unfair contract terms in supply agreements and the viticulture sector.
  • Ensuring the effectiveness of the compulsory recall of vehicles with Takata airbags.
  • Improving the safety of quad bikes.
  • Anti-competitive conduct and unfair business practices impacting competition in commercial construction markets.

In addition, there are some forms of conduct that the ACCC will always regard as being a priority due to them being highly detrimental to consumer welfare and the competitive process. These include:

  • Cartel conduct – the ACCC prioritises this because when dealing with international cartels, it must focus on pursuing the cartels that have a connection to, or cause detriment to Australia. This includes cartels that involve Australian businesses or entities carrying on business in Australia.
  • Anti-competitive conduct – The ACCC prioritises anti-competitive agreements and practices, and the misuse of market power.
  • Product safety – the ACCC prioritises safety issues that have the potential to cause harm to consumers.
  • Vulnerable and disadvantaged consumers – the ACCC recognises that vulnerable and disadvantaged consumers can be impacted by conduct in breach of the Act.
  • Conduct impacting Indigenous Australians – the ACCC acknowledges that certain conduct if in breach of the Act could significantly impact the welfare of Indigenous Australians. This is especially so for Indigenous consumers living in remote areas who face challenges in asserting their rights as consumers.

These priorities serve as a reminder for businesses to ensure that they have all the correct systems in place and to reinforce compliance with the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 as well as the Australian Consumer Law (ACL). If your business falls within one of the above sections, it is crucial that you review your business operations moving forward.

Graduate Lawyer, Elyzia Menounos