The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission today released its new Compliance and Enforcement Policy. The policy outlines the ACCC's priority areas for the year and sets out the factors to be taken into account when deciding whether to pursue matters.
Launching the policy at CEDA in Sydney, ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said a strategic review confirmed many previously identified priorities and added some new areas.
"Some forms of conduct are so detrimental to consumer welfare and the competitive process that the ACCC will always assess them as a priority, irrespective of which sector of the economy the activity occurs," Mr Sims said.
“These are in the areas of cartel conduct, anti-competitive agreements and misuse of market power."
Mr Sims said the ACCC expected to increase its rate of intervention in competition matters.
"We have recently reviewed our investigations to focus on the most important or problematic matters and we currently now have in the order of 30 in-depth competition investigations into anti-competitive behaviour."
“As a specific area of focus, the ACCC has maintained reference to placing priority on competition and consumer issues arising in highly concentrated sectors and in particular the supermarkets and fuel sectors.”
“We have also decided to place further emphasis on online competition and consumer issues. This includes conduct which may impede emerging competition between online traders or limit the ability of small businesses to effectively compete online.”
Mr Sims said the ACCC's consumer protection priorities are a mix of new and emerging concerns and those from 2012 that require further work.
"New to our priorities is an interest in credence claims, particularly those in the food industry with the potential to have a significant effect on consumers and the competitive process."
"Other new areas of complaint that the ACCC is interested in are online group buying and fake testimonials and reviews in online retailing, given the increasing number of consumers shopping online. Fake testimonials can mislead consumers and give an unfair advantage to unscrupulous traders."
The ACCC's consumer protection priorities are online consumer issues, telecommunications and energy, consumer guarantees, consumer protection issues impacting on Indigenous communities, credence claims particularly in the food industry and carbon price claims.
The policy states that the ACCC will always prioritise the assessment of product safety issues which have the potential to cause serious harm to consumers.
In the area of mergers, Mr Sims said the ACCC has responded to calls by the trade practices and business community for increased transparency and engagement with the ACCC during the course of merger reviews.
Mr Sims also outlined the ACCC priorities in the area of small business.
"The ACCC continues to focus on anti-competitive and unconscionable conduct that seeks to exploit or unfairly constrains small businesses in the marketplace," Mr Sims said.
The Compliance and Enforcement Policy is available.
The Chairman's address to CEDA is available at http://www.accc.gov.au/speech/the-accc%E2%80%99s-2013-priorities