Chairman Rod Sims today outlined the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s consumer protection activities at the National Consumer Congress in Sydney.
“Last year, we undertook considerable consumer education and compliance work. We also investigated many matters and instituted proceedings in eight new competition cases and 20 consumer protection matters in the Federal Court. We accepted 14 consumer protection-related undertakings and issued 15 infringement notices,” Mr Sims said.
“In 2014, our court actions under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) netted a total of $14.5 million in pecuniary penalties.”
Mr Sims listed some of the current consumer matters before the court, including separate actions against: Bet365, Chrisco Hampers, Europcar Australia, Virgin Australia Airlines, Jetstar Airways, Valve Corporation and Woolworths.
In discussing priorities for 2015, Mr Sims spoke about how the ACCC is working with state fair trading agencies and consumer groups to protect and educate consumers.
“This year we will focus on issues affecting Indigenous consumers, older consumers, and consumers who are newly arrived in Australia. This is an area where will be drawing on partnerships.”
“We are also working jointly with other ACL regulators to understand and address conduct that affects consumers, particularly the vulnerable, in the training and education sector. We have a number of investigations underway.”
Mr Sims also named product safety, truth in advertising, the medical and health sector, scam disruption, carbon and online issues as areas of focus.
In the final part of his speech, the Chairman said market analysis needs to play a larger role in supporting the ACCC’s compliance and enforcement approach.
“We now believe we should do more of this work, and will do so, albeit that it must come with some cost to our enforcement efforts.”
“This year we will begin a new program of reviews of selected industry sectors. The sectors we are currently reviewing include debt collection and private health insurance,” Mr Sims said.
The theme for this year’s congress is ‘preparing consumers for the future, today: the upcoming review of the Australian Consumer Law’.
Mr Sims said the ACL has proven to be excellent and a review provides a chance to both reaffirm the benefits and to make it better.
“The ACL has taken consumer protection to new levels in terms of the laws that underpin it, awareness and recognition among consumers and businesses, and the way in which regulators act to deliver compliance.”
“Such new levels of consumer protection are absolutely necessary in a market economy; without appropriate consumer laws our market economy, quite simply, will not work as it should,” Mr Sims said.
The ACCC hosts the National Consumer Congress which brings together consumer groups, community organisations and government to discuss consumer issues and to develop strategies to improve consumer justice and welfare.
The Chairman’s speech is available via Working together to cement and improve the Australian Consumer Law.
The Congress program is available via the National Consumer Congress page.