Fast-moving disruptive technologies and anti-competitive responses to those technologies by incumbent businesses are some of the key challenges facing consumer regulators, said Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Chairman Rod Sims.
Addressing the National Consumer Congress in Melbourne today, Mr Sims highlighted the challenges in regulating rogue online traders, sophisticated scam artists, and new retail practices like ‘subscription traps’, some of which fall short of the Australian Consumer Law and many of whom are based overseas.
“New technology has increased access to more products, services, and information for consumers but with it come new challenges for consumer advocates and regulators,” Mr Sims said.
“Consumer advocacy is essential to ensuring all consumers reap the benefits of a well-functioning market economy and ensuring that consumer protection moves with the times.”
The ACCC also indicated that in 2017 it will be moving beyond the ‘traditional’ areas of consumer guarantees from, for example, consumers’ well-known rights for a repair, replacement or refund when sold defective goods such as clothing, electrical items, or household appliances.
“The ACCC will be looking at consumer guarantees for more complex products such as motor vehicles and the provision of services in industries such as telecommunications providers and airlines,” Mr Sims said.
The regulator’s focus will include investigations and possible actions that test, for example, the extent to which consumers are being directed away from their consumer guarantee rights and remedies in favour of manufacturer warranties.
Mr Sims said, even after five years since becoming ACCC Chair, he remains puzzled as to why some large companies treat their customers so badly and with so little respect.
“We are often told that companies will only succeed by meeting customer needs. It is clear that some companies seek to deceive their consumers about these needs,” said Mr Sims.
“This is why we take on so many high profile cases, to act as a deterrent to others by showing that those who seek to mislead or mistreat their customers will be held to account.
“Companies also often enter public policy debates making only self-serving arguments. This is why it is vital that the ACCC and Australian consumer groups provide a counter view.”
The speech is available: Advocacy for the consumer
The ACCC is hosting its annual National Consumer Congress today, which brings together consumer organisations, academics and consumer law regulators to consider the key issues facing Australian consumers.
This year’s Congress coincides with World Consumer Rights Day, the theme of which is building a digital world that consumers can trust.
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