The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has commenced criminal proceedings in the Federal Court, Brisbane against Mr Robert Paul Davies for allegedly aiding and abetting the failure by Natural Food Vending Pty Ltd (Natural Food Vending) to comply with a compulsory notice issued by the ACCC.

In 2010, the ACCC issued a notice under section 155 of the Trade Practices Act 1974 (Cth) (now called the Competition and Consumer Act 2010) (the Act) to Natural Food Vending requiring it to provide certain information and documents. The notice was issued as part of the ACCC’s investigation into allegations that Natural Food Vending made false or misleading representations in the promotion and sale of vending machine business opportunities.

Natural Food Vending appointed a liquidator on the morning of the day that the response to the section 155 notice was due. Natural Food Vending failed to provide any of the information or documents required by the notice by 2.00pm on the due date, as required by the notice.

The ACCC alleges that Mr Davies, the sole director of Natural Food Vending, aided, abetted, counselled or procured the company’s failure to comply with the notice, including by failing to inform the liquidator of the existence of the notice or of the ACCC’s investigation into representations allegedly made by Natural Food Vending.

“Section 155 notices are a critical tool for the ACCC in investigating potential breaches of competition and consumer laws,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.

“The ACCC takes non-compliance with section 155 notices, and conduct that facilitates non-compliance, extremely seriously.”

A directions hearing for this matter has been set down for 7 November 2014.

Mr Davies has not entered a plea at this time.

This is the second criminal proceeding commenced by the ACCC in recent weeks for alleged offences associated with a failure to comply with compulsory notices issued pursuant to section 155.

Section 155 of the Act gives the ACCC the power to require a person to provide information, documents and/or give oral evidence at an examination. Failure to comply with section 155 is a criminal offence. The penalties which can be imposed by a Court are a fine of up to $3,400 or up to 12 months’ imprisonment.