Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Chairman Rod Sims outlined priorities for the national competition watchdog while addressing the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce in Melbourne today.

“The enduring goal of the ACCC is to serve the long term interests of consumers through enforcing compliance with the Competition and Consumer Act 2010,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.

“This goal is underpinned by a belief that an effectively functioning market economy is in the best interests of consumers, and that the ACCC’s role is crucial in ensuring this market economy runs well.”

Mr Sims declared that the ACCC would renew its focus on vulnerable consumers. The experiences of older Australians confronted by door-to-door sellers and exploitation of Indigenous Australians due to their geographic isolation were highlighted as areas of particular concern.

“The ACCC will make full use of the profound changes in the Australian Consumer Law (ACL), including by working more closely with the states and territories.”

“We now have improved laws in a number of areas, such as unfair contract terms and consumer guarantees, new penalties for breaches and new powers to investigate misleading representations.”

There will also be continuing focus on competition issues and the shape of the Australian economy.

“Australia has many concentrated markets. Some sectors have been the focus of considerable community interest, such as fuel and supermarkets. Our priority in 2012 will be to determine whether or not there are breaches in these important sectors,” Mr Sims said.

“This year will also be a busy one in telecommunications: establishing the regulatory underpinnings of the future operations of the NBN, and on the consumer front a continuing focus on consumers, so that the increasing complexity of products does not lead to greater confusion.”

The ACCC will also engage with regulators internationally to protect the Australian business and consumers from cross border malfeasance.

“It is important that the closer economic engagement Australia enjoys with our Asian neighbours is increasingly reflected in closer working relationships with the region’s competition agencies.”