Tuesday, April 23, 2024

ACCC highlights supermarkets in 2024 priorities

Consumer and competition issues in the supermarket sector and essential services are among the ACCC’s compliance and enforcement priorities for the year ahead.

Speaking at a Committee for Economic Development Australia (CEDA) event in Sydney last week, ACCC Chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb said the priorities of the competition and consumer watchdog continue to be shaped by the key challenges facing the economy and the concerns that occupy the community.

“Principal amongst these shaping influences are the existential importance of the net zero transition, the opportunities and disruptions of digital transformation, and the significant impact of cost of living pressures across our community,” she said.

Supermarkets

Ms Cass-Gottlieb said because Australian consumers were facing rising costs across a range of products and services, they were more vulnerable to anti-competitive conduct and misleading representations.

With this in mind, the ACCC will prioritise competition, fair trading, consumer protection and pricing issues in the supermarket sector, with a focus on food and groceries. This work will include the 12-month price inquiry commenced in January.

“This priority reflects the concerns of many Australian consumers and farmers about supermarket pricing that have been expressed to the ACCC and publicly,” Ms Cass-Gottlieb said.

“We also have a role to ensure that consumers are not misled and that claims about specials, discounts and advertised prices are truthful and accurate.”

Digital economy

In the digital economy, the ACCC will focus on consumer protection and fair-trading issues for small business including misleading or deceptive conduct in influencer marketing, online reviews, price comparison websites and in-app purchases.

Consumer guarantees

The ACCC will also continue to prioritise improving business compliance with consumer guarantees.

“A key concern that has recently emerged is the delay in delivery and non-delivery of consumer products. Delivery timeframes are a key consideration for many consumers when choosing a retailer,” Ms Cass-Gottlieb said.

Sustainability and small businesses  

Competition, consumer and product safety issues in sustainability and the net zero transition will remain a priority.

Compliance with unfair contract terms laws will also be a priority in contracts relating to small businesses and consumers, supported by new penalties taking effect in late 2023.

For the first time, the ACCC’s work protecting the small business sector was listed as an enduring priority.

“Small business is a significant contributor to our economy and supports the livelihoods of many Australians,” Ms Cass-Gottlieb said.

Cartel conduct

Taking action on cartel conduct remains at the heart of the ACCC’s role as a competition enforcement agency, Ms Cass-Gottlieb said.

“Cartels undermine the competitive process removing competition, restricting output, and increasing price of everyday goods for all Australians,” she said.

“We’re proud of our history of cartel enforcement, and will continue to bring cartel proceedings, including criminal cartel proceedings by referring briefs to the Commonwealth Department of Public Prosecutions.”

National Anti-Scam Centre

The ACCC’s work in the National Anti-Scam Centre was newly listed as an enduring priority, joining anti-competitive conduct, product safety, conduct impacting consumers experiencing vulnerability or disadvantage and conduct impacting First Nations Australians.

“This year we’re establishing a dedicated First Nations coordination, outreach and advocacy team that will help inform and align all our activities across the whole agency regarding conduct impacting First Nations Australians,” Ms Cass-Gottlieb said.

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