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The ACCC' s 2016 implementation priority for small businesses, consumer spending, farming and overcharged credit cards.
ACCC Chairman Rod Sims started the ACCC Compliance and Implementation Policy (Policy) 2016 on 23 February 2016. Speaking at the inauguration in Sydney, Mr Sims talked about the ACCC's implementation priority for the coming year and the ongoing emphasis on consumer and small business protection. Mr Sims also pointed out in his concluding comments the ACCC' s aim to create more openness in its decision-making and investigation process.
You can find a copy of the Compliance and Compliance Policy 2016 of the ACCC and the copy of Mr. Sims' address here and here. Besides the ACCC's continued emphasis on antitrust behaviour, abuse of dominant positions and practices with far-reaching anti-competitive effects, the healthcare sector and consumer healthcare claim and consumer protection laws for aboriginal users, which are explained in more detail below, the ACCC has established new implementation priority areas for 2016.
This year, assertiveness against large companies will be a priority for the ACCC, which will continue to defend the interests of small companies. Concentrating on large companies is also designed to mitigate consumer damage and provide the markets with clear evidence that bad conduct will be punished.
ACCC' s prioritised areas of sector code of good practice and abusive contractual clauses (see below discussion) are further highlights of this year's ACCC emphasis on small entrepreneurs. A law will come into force in November 2016 extending protection against improper contractual conditions to small enterprises. ACCC has stated that its priorities for this year will be to lay the foundations for new law and ensure that small companies know their prerogatives.
Investigating the Volkswagen emission case is an on-going exemplary campaign by the ACCC in this focal area of implementation. According to the Federal Government's White Paper on agriculture, the ACCC identifies the farming industry as a new focus in 2015. In the White Paper misgivings were raised about dishonest trade practice throughout the entire farm food production process.
ACCC aims to improve its understandings of this value added process by carrying out a number of detailed researches. Mick Keogh has been nominated as ACCC Commissioner in reaction to a recent Competition Policy Review advice that an ACCC Commissioner must have a farming history. By realigning the emphasis, somewhat away from the "concentrated industries", the ACCC has made the industrial codex an implementation priorit for 2016.
Emphasis was placed on hypermarkets and their relations with vendors, as well as the cases against Woolworths for its Mind the Gap payments system and the ACCC's concern about the way chains of stores follow up the Food and Beverage Code of Conduct. It is this prioritisation of the sector code that will also draw our interest to the Franchising Code of Conduct and the Horticultural Code of Conduct.
The detection and deterrence of antitrust behaviour remains a priority for the ACCC. Sims noted that the ACCC is currently conducting approximately 20 antitrust inquiries and expected to initiate one or two law enforcement actions and other important civilian procedures this year. Mr Sims also noted that more work needed to be done on public purchasing.
ACCC continues to give priority to behaviour and practice that is likely to significantly restrict effective competitive conditions in a given area. As Mr Sims has also pointed out, the ACCC will seek stricter sanctions in competitive cases. In 2015, for example, visas were ordered to foot 18 million dollars in fines for commercial behaviour.
ACCC is currently conducting a number of inquiries into alleged abuse of dominant position. This year, too, the healthcare segment will remain a focal area after the ACCC successfully intervened in 2015 in cases of exclusivity, innocent behavior and deceptive behavior. ACCC will also pursue its 2015 Senate review of the ACCC' s review of the healthcare system - a reaction to concern over the clarity of political information.
An ACCC will further investigate date and romantic fraud through on-line date sites. By 2015, the ACCC had more than 105,000 fraud-related claims - a large number of which involved relational fraud. Recognising the challenge facing tribal consumer groups in enforcing their consumer laws (especially when they live in isolated areas), the ACCC has made the conservation of tribal consumer laws a permanent focus.
An ACCC will maintain the priority of protecting older and recently arriving Australian users. The ACCC has already taken measures in a number of cases of allegedly deceptive behaviour to date this year. In February 2016, the ACCC published two injury reports to retail dealers regarding deceptive information about their reclining bed and related mobile devices.
A permanent topmost priority of the ACCC is the consumer prevention of faulty and hazardous goods. The Federal Court ruled in February 2016 that Woolworths must foot over $3 million in fines for security matters relating to private label retail goods. Continuing its work in 2015, the ACCC has announced that it will work to demonstrate the hazards of coin cells, quads and Infinity cabling.
The Senate adopted the 2015 Act (Cth) on 22 February 2016 amending the rules on competition and consumer protection (Payment Surcharges), which limits the amount companies can charge their clients for the use of means of credit and debit card transactions. Under the new rules, excess surcharges by traders will be prohibited if the extra costs incurred by the consumer are higher than the trader's costs of accepting the means of settlement.
Whilst the ACCC has paid close attention both to the implementation of the prohibition on airlines and ticket payment, the law will also have an effect on the charges that apply to point-of-sale retail purchases. Especially if the company is active in one of the new priority areas of the ACCC, a check can provide information about possible potentials for improvements and support the company in the avoidance of ACCC implementation measures.
Think about the consumer warranty issues you may have, especially with regard to enhanced warranty. Unfairy contractual conditions and small companies - have your default forms checked before November 2016.