New ACCC Chair sets out priorities and approach

New ACCC Chair Rod Sims has set out his two major priorities for the ACCC and identified 6 other key approaches to be adopted by the ACCC

Sim’s said his first overarching goal is to ensure that the ACCC grows and improves as an essential Australian institution.

Our society depends on the strength of its core institutions. The strength of the ACCC must be guarded and nurtured with care, and I intend to do this in my role as Chairman

He described his second goal as “even more important.”

It is that Australians see that a market economy and strong competition works for them and that they see the ACCC working tirelessly for the long run interests of consumers

In the speech he listed six concrete areas of focus.

First, as an enforcement agency, the ACCC will be strategic and it will take on more cases where the outcome may be less predictable. It also will ensure the broader community knows what it is doing and, equally important, why.

Second, the ACCC, will make full use of the ACL [the Australian Consumer Law] and, over time, outline more clearly how and when we will use our relatively new powers.

Third, the ACCC will take a co-ordinated approach under the Act and across the organisation as a whole.

Fourth, while our core responsibility is compliance, enforcement and regulation the ACCC will, when appropriate, be an important advocate for legislative change, but we will be clear that we are but one legitimate voice among many.

Fifth, while the vast majority of share acquisitions or mergers will continue to be approved, the ACCC will be vigilant in ensuring they do not bring a substantial lessening of competition.

Sixth, recognising that competition policy extends beyond anti-trust issues, the ACCC will, when appropriate, also contribute more broadly on wider competition issues.

Sims also noted recent consumer enforcement success and areas of future priority

We have already achieved significant success in consumer issues in the telecommunications sector, and this will remain a focus. In relation to mobile premium services, for example, there has been a decline in complaints which we can trace back to our active enforcement in combination with some recent changes to the regulatory settings in this area.

Another essential service, electricity, will become a focus area. This is a crucial cost of living issue for Australians and the ACCC and the AER have a large role to play in relation to many aspects of this industry. Like telecommunications, there is significant potential for ‘bill shock’ and consumer distress in this rapidly changing, often confusing and critical market.
The online retail market place will also be an important area of future scrutiny. As it becomes more mainstream, the ACCC will be increasingly called upon to protect consumers.

The speech was Sims first major address on Future Directions for the ACCC and was given to the Law Council on 27 August 2011.

 

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