ACCC releases quarterly report

The ACCC made a formal submission to the Harper review in June 2014. Key elements of the submission included the importance of effective competition laws, key recommendations relating to the misuse of market power provisions and so-called “price signalling’ provisions, and an emphasis on governments establishing the processes and institutions that foster competition and sustain the commitment to reform.

The ACCC fulfilled its obligations under the direction from the Treasurer to monitor prices, costs and profits to assess the general effect of the carbon tax scheme in Australia in preparation for the repeal of the carbon tax. The ACCC is making quarterly requests for information from relevant entities. In the June quarter the ACCC received 350 responses from relevant entities and a further 15 from entities that at the time were not covered by the Direction but made representations during the carbon pricing period.

“The ACCC will be keeping a close eye on prices to make sure that all carbon tax cost savings go to consumers,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.

Identified as a priority in the Enforcement and Compliance policy, the ACCC took action on drip pricing, instituting proceedings in the Federal Court against Jetstar Airways Pty Ltd (Jetstar) and Virgin Australia Airlines Ply Ltd (virgin). The ACCC alleges that Jetstar and Virgin each made representations on their websites and mobile sites that certain domestic airfares were available for purchase at specific prices, when in fact those prices were only available if payment was made using particular methods.

Continuing its focus on consumer protection, the ACCC added 7 new cases to 26 already underway including proceedings against Origin Energy Limited for energy savings representations, ACTROL Parts Ply Ltd for carbon price representations and Adata Pty Ltd in relation to Indigenous consumer protection.

The Federal Court made several significant decisions, including:

  • A $60 000 increase of penalties ordered against BAJV Ply Ltd for engaging in unconscionable conduct and making false or misleading statements, following an appeal by the ACCC in May 2014
  • an order of penalties totalling $1.49 million. corrective advertising and compliance programs against EnergyAustralia PId Ltd and four of its associated marketing companies for unlawful door-to-door selling practices
  • an order of penalties totalling $800 000 against Titan Marketing Pty Ltd for engaging in unconscionable conduct, making false representations to consumers, breaching the unsolicited consumer agreement provisions of the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) and failing to specify a single price for goods.

The quarter also saw the successful roll out of the National Consumer Fraud Week campaign. During 16-23 June, the ACCC focused on teaching Australians how to identify, avoid and disengage from scammers. A highlight of the week was the release of the ACCC’s 2013 Targeting Scams Report which assisted in drawing a substantial amount of media and public attention to the campaign.

Also in the regulatory arena, the ACCC was active in areas as diverse as telecommunications, wheat port access, and airports. In April, the ACCC released its final report on the fixed line services declaration inquiry. The ACCC decided to extend the declaration of the six fixed line services for a further five year period, until 31 July 2019. The ACCC also released a draft decision to accept an undertaking from GrainCorp Operations Ltd in relation to its port terminal services. The ACCC sought industry views on the undertaking and the draft decision was released on 26 June 2014.

The ACCC released the annual Airport Monitoring Report for 2012-13, which reported on the quality, prices, costs, and profits related to aeronautical and car parking services supplied at various airports around the country.

The Australian Energy Regulator(AER) also published its Statement of Intent for 2014-15 in response to the Council of Australian Governments (CoAG)’s Energy Council outlining its expectations of the AER under new accountability and performance frameworks. The AER response sets out its strategic priorities, ongoing work program and the AER’s deliverables and performance indicators.

The ACCC assessed and reviewed a total of 100 merger matters in the quarter, including not oppose the proposed acquisition by the Transurban Consortium of the tollroad and associated assets of Queensland Motorways Group. The Australian Competition Tribunal also granted conditional authorisation to AGL of its proposed acquisition of Macquarie Generation. Preceding the authorisation application to the Tribunal, on 4 March 2014 the ACCC had opposed the proposed acquisition following an informal merger review.

ACCCount is located in the publication section of the ACCC website.