ACCC issues ACCCount for March 2020 quarter

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) works to enhance the welfare of Australians by promoting competition and fair trading and regulating national infrastructure.

This report highlights the range of activities the ACCC engaged in to achieve its purpose in the March 2020 quarter, including:

  • responding to competition and consumer issues arising from the COVID-19 pandemic
  • enforcing competition laws in relation to cartel conduct, anti-competitive agreements, misuse of market power and mergers that substantially lessen competition
  • protecting consumers from unfair business practices and unsafe products
  • regulating national services, infrastructure and markets with limited competition or natural monopoly characteristics
  • studying, monitoring and reporting on competition and consumer issues in specific markets and industries
  • advocacy and collaboration to promote competition and fair trading.

The ACCC moved quickly during the March quarter to re-prioritise work and direct resources towards delivering on issues stemming from the disruption caused by COVID-19. Actions we undertook included the following:

  • establishing a COVID-19 Taskforce to respond rapidly to competition and consumer issues impacting Australian consumers and businesses
  • granting a number of interim authorisations to support coordination between competitors that is ordinarily prohibited but which is necessary and in the public interest at this time
  • publishing information to raise awareness of consumer rights, for example, regarding travel and event cancellations
  • enhanced efforts to address behaviour that sought to exploit the crisis, such as commencing targeted scams analysis to identify COVID-19 scam trends
  • working with international counterpart agencies to share experiences and responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.

We continued to deliver on pre-existing priorities and essential work. Key outcomes for the March quarter included:

  • the release of our 2020 Compliance and Enforcement Priorities and 2020 Product Safety Priorities. These priorities remain in place during the pandemic, but we are re-focusing our efforts to the priorities of most relevance to competition and consumer issues arising from the impact of COVID-19
  • $4.2 million in penalties against former carwash and detailing franchisor Geowash Pty Ltd, its director and franchising manager for breaches of the Australian Consumer Law
  • $500 000 in penalties against Panthera Finance Pty Ltd for unduly harassing three consumers over debts they did not owe and for misleading one of the three consumers
  • announcing a decision not to oppose the proposed acquisition by Bauer Media Pty Limited of the business assets of Pacific Magazines Pty Ltd. These companies are the two largest magazine publishers in Australia.
  • industry engagement and compliance work related to the implementation of the mandatory Dairy Code of Conduct, which commenced on 1 January 2020
  • announcing closer monitoring of retail petrol price movements to ensure motorists benefit from any sustained fall in international crude oil and refined petrol prices
  • commencing inquiries into markets for the supply of digital platform services and digital advertising services
  • making a submission to the Australian Government on enhancements to unfair contract term protections
  • releasing a number of publications, including:
    • the annual Communications Market Report 2018–19
    • the eighth quarterly Measuring Broadband Australia report
    • the December quarter 2019 NBN wholesale market indicators report
    • the Airport monitoring report 2018–19
    • a petrol monitoring report for the December 2019 quarter
    • the eighth interim report for the East Coast Gas Inquiry
    • an interim report to the Treasurer on the Home Loan Price Inquiry
    • a report to the Australian Senate on anti-competitive and other practices by health insurers and providers in relation to private health insurance for 2018–19.

To read the full report, see: ACCCount 1 January to 31 March 2020


Published date: 
1 July 2020