Rules and regulations for professionals
Professional service providers operate in a competitive marketplace. Like businesses, they have obligations under the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 and must follow rules relevant to their profession.
Professional service providers include professions such as:
Under the Act, professional service providers must comply with laws about:
- competing and dealing fairly with other businesses
- protecting consumers.
Professional service providers must also follow:
How to operate within the law
It's important to understand your legal rights and obligations to compete fairly. You may have rights and obligations under professional association codes of conduct or rules as well as extra obligations under the Act. Complying with your professional association codes of conduct or rules doesn't always mean you are complying with the Act.
The following steps provide a guide to help you operate within the law.
- determine your own prices.
- be transparent when advertising and dealing with clients. Make sure that they understand the services you are offering and prices you are charging before they:
- sign a contract
- make a payment, or
- give financial consent.
- understand consumer rights to a cancellation, refund or compensation if you fail to deliver consumer guarantees for services provided.
- don’t agree with competitors to fix prices, rig bids, restrict supply, allocate markets or negotiate jointly with suppliers.
- don’t boycott markets or restrict access for other professionals where it will interfere with competition.
- don’t use your commercial position to subject other parties to harsh or oppressive behaviour. This is considered unconscionable conduct.
- don’t use unfair tactics or attempt to gain benefit from another business or professional by excluding potential rivals from competing.
Find more information about how to operate within the law on our industry associations page.
Unfair tactics include misleading other businesses or consumers by misrepresenting:
- the quality, uses or benefits of goods or services offered
- that a business has a sponsorship when it doesn’t
- costs or fees
- credentials and areas of expertise.
Ethical and fiduciary duties
Professionals have an ethical obligation to act in the best interest of their clients and patients. These ethical obligations prevent professionals from acting to promote their own self-interest.
The law also recognises certain relationships as ‘fiduciary relationships’. This is where one person places confidence in another. Examples of ‘fiduciary relationships’ are:
- trustee and beneficiary
- agent and principal, or
- solicitor and client.
Not every relationship between a professional and client is fiduciary and fiduciary obligations do not extend over an entire relationship.
Ethical obligations and fiduciary duties do not conflict with the parts of the Act that apply to professionals.
Professional issues of concern
The ACCC has identified some broad issues of concern across all professions that may lead to breaches of the law. These include:
- restricting entry into the market more than is necessary to ensure quality of service
- restricting and controlling markets, including through:
- price fixing, boycotts and other anti-competitive agreements
- national and local presence requirements, restrictions on foreign investment and ownership, lack of recognition of foreign credentials and other restrictions on professional activities by overseas professionals.
- failing to deliver consumer protections, particularly through:
- false and misleading conduct, or
- failing to get informed consent before a transaction.
See industry associations for more information about these issues.
Exemptions in the public interest
A business that is planning activity that will or may breach competition law can seek an exemption from the ACCC.
Businesses can apply to the ACCC for an authorisation or notification. An exemption provides protection from legal action under the Act for certain potentially anti-competitive conduct that is in the public interest.
Exemptions are only given for activity that doesn't substantially lessen competition or that has a net public benefit. There are different exemption processes for different activities.