A small business contacting the ACCC between January and June this year was most likely reporting false and misleading conduct, asking about their obligations to consumers during the Covid-19 pandemic or raising concerns about consumer guarantees.
That’s according to the latest ‘Small business in focus’ report, which details the ACCC’s work in the first half of 2020 across the small business, franchising and agriculture sectors.
Covid-19 related issues affecting small businesses saw the number of enquiries to the ACCC in the first half of this year increase by 42%, compared to the previous six months.
“Around half of all the Covid-19 related contacts the ACCC received to the end of June came from small businesses in the travel, healthcare and medical supplies, fitness, and event management sectors,” says ACCC Deputy Chair Mick Keogh.
“The impact of the pandemic on small businesses has been enormous and we have re-prioritised our work and resources to help businesses and consumers work through many of the issues.
“Operating a small business is challenging enough in the good times and given the current crisis that so many businesses are facing, it’s important they can easily access information about their protections and obligations under the Australian Consumer Law.”
In total, more than 3,000 small businesses contacted the ACCC between January and June 2020. Around two-thirds of those businesses were reporting potential misconduct, and one-third were enquiring about their business rights and obligations.
Small businesses reported 1,200 scams with $4.5 million in losses in the first half of this year. While this is fewer reports than in the previous six-month period, says the ACCC, it is a more than threefold increase in losses.
“When people think of scam victims, they imagine vulnerable consumers, but scammers target small businesses too and they are re-inventing old payment scams with Covid-19 themes,” says Mr Keogh.
The ACCC says it took enforcement action on a range of issues to protect small businesses in the first six months of this year.
“We will take action when we become aware of breaches of the Australian Consumer Law, especially when the conduct has the potential to result in widespread harm,” says Mr Keogh.