Advertising and selling guide

What happens if I don't comply with the Australian Consumer Law?

Consumers—or other businesses—that believe they have been misled by a business and suffered damages as a result can pursue the party who has breached the law for damages.

Just as you must adhere to the ACL, so must your competitors. As a business, you also have a right to take action against a competitor if you feel you have suffered loss or damage as a result of them breaching the ACL.

The ACCC, the state and territory consumer protection agencies and any other individual or group can take legal action against businesses for contraventions of the ACL.

The ACCC’s enforcement powers are extensive—for some contraventions it can seek remedies such as:

  • criminal or civil pecuniary penalties to the greater of $10 million, 3 times the value of the benefit received, or where the benefit cannot be calculated, 10 per cent of annual turnover in the preceding 12 months for corporations
  • criminal or civil pecuniary penalties of up to $500,000 for individuals
  • infringement notice penalties of up to $133,200 for publicly listed companies, $13,320 for corporations and up to $2,664 for individuals
  • disqualification orders
  • injunctions to prevent ongoing conduct
  • corrective advertising orders.

In determining whether to take action, the ACCC gives enforcement priority to matters that demonstrate one or more of a range of factors such as whether the conduct is of significant public interest or concern, is conduct resulting in a substantial consumer (including small business) detriment, is unconscionable conduct, particularly involving large national companies or traders, or is conduct demonstrating a blatant disregard for the law.

While the ACCC may not take action on all matters, many state or territory agencies are well placed to address issues relating to local advertising and selling practices. For small businesses, the Australian Small Business Commissioner or the state-based Small Business Commissioners (in some states) may be able to assist with a dispute or problem.

Related information: ACCC Compliance and Enforcement policy
Legislation: Australian Consumer Law Chapter 5