The Federal Court in Brisbane has sentenced Robert Paul Davies to 200 hours of community service for aiding, abetting, counselling or procuring the failure by Natural Food Vending Pty Ltd (Natural Food Vending) to comply with a compulsory notice issued by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, following his earlier conviction for this offence.

“Section 155 powers are a critical tool used by the ACCC to investigate potential breaches of competition and consumer laws,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.

“The ACCC takes compliance with compulsory notices very seriously, and will take appropriate action where non-compliance occurs.”

In 2010, the ACCC issued a notice under section 155 of the Trade Practices Act 1974 (now 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.

Mr Davies, the sole director of Natural Food Vending, placed the company into liquidation 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 to be provided to the ACCC.

The Federal Court found that Mr Davies intended to, and did, aid and abet the failure of Natural Food Vending to comply with the section 155 notice.

In his sentencing judgment, Justice Reeves noted Mr Davies’ lack of contrition and unwillingness to take responsibility for his actions.  His Honour stated that the penalty of 200 hours of community service imposed on Mr Davies would reflect the Court’s condemnation of his conduct and act as a general deterrent to others.

Section 155 of the Act gives the ACCC the power to require a person to provide information, documents and/or to appear to give oral or written evidence and produce documents at an examination conducted by the Commission.

Failure to comply with section 155 is a criminal offence punishable by a fine of up to $3,600 or up to 12 months’ imprisonment.