Friday, May 31, 2024

ACCC hosts National Consumer Congress

Opening the ACCC’s annual event on Wednesday, Chairman Rod Sims said consumer protection laws are an essential part of a successful marketplace.

“Our consumer laws underwrite confident consumer participation in commerce, enhance transparency and informed choice,” Mr Sims said. “They also ensure that businesses compete on merit and not falsehoods and protect all consumers and small businesses from unfairness that has no place in a properly functioning market.”

Mr Sims said this year’s congress takes on extra significance with the first review of the ACL only weeks away. Consumer Affairs Australia and New Zealand will conduct the review in 2016, with a final report expected in early 2017.

Mr Sims said the review will test whether consumer protections suit the modern marketplace and whether the regulatory tools and sanctions are delivering compliance.

“Just as the introduction of the ACL built on previous laws and regimes, we are confident that the 2016 review will confirm this new and improved base while taking steps to advance consumer protection.”

Mr Sims listed some of the topics expected to emerge as part of the review, including the sharing economy, dealing with phoenix companies, and the reach and size of penalties under the ACL.

“We have often commented that the introduction of $1.1 million pecuniary penalties has been a game changer for regulators in terms of deterrence, but is it enough to deter larger companies?” he said.

“We also think there is a strong case to examine the merits of extending the reach of penalties to cover breaches of the general prohibitions against misleading and deceptive conduct. Penalties and other remedies already apply to false or misleading representations and there is often overlap between the two.”

Mr Sims said the review will also look at current laws to see if they are working as intended. He said the ACCC intends to point out component pricing, unfair contract terms and unsolicited consumer agreements as possible areas of focus.

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