The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is helping to protect consumers from misleading and deceptive conduct by giving them the confidence to embrace new technology, Chairman Rod Sims said on Thursday at the ACCC’s National Consumer Congress in Sydney.
“As part of our role we have worked to help empower consumers and small businesses by combining enforcement with education and awareness activities,” Mr Sims said.
“In the past year or so we have been working to uphold the integrity of online reviews as well as looking into conduct which may limit competition in the online retail environment.”
“The ACCC has taken action in the area of group buying and we have been active in looking at in-app purchases and attempting to curb online dating scams,” Mr Sims said.
“A couple of years ago, we took on Apple over its iPad 4G claims, and there was further action in relation to 3DTV promotions and the advertising of broadband plans.”
In discussing the ACCC’s consumer protection record, Mr Sims said civil pecuniary penalties are clearly improving compliance with the Australian Consumer Law.
“We have 13 cases where the Federal Court has awarded penalties of $1 million or more, and these cases have been well noticed by the Australian business community.”
The Chairman noted that the annual review of the ACCC’s Compliance and Enforcement Policy confirmed many previously identified priorities but also revealed some new areas of focus.
Mr Sims said drip pricing and price comparators are emerging consumer issues in the online marketplace.
“Drip pricing involves the incremental disclosure of fees and charges over an online booking process. It causes both competition and consumer detriment.”
Mr Sims said consumers also stand to benefit from the ACCC’s work in deterring cartels, misuse of market power and anti-competitive agreements.
“When there is anti-competitive conduct, consumers often bear the cost by paying higher prices.”
“For example, late last year we instituted proceedings against a number of parties relating to an alleged cartel in the laundry detergent industry. We argue that an industry-wide shift to ultra-concentrated laundry detergent products resulted in denying Australian consumers the benefits of lower prices for these products.”
The 2014 Consumer Congress focuses on ‘consumer rights in the digital age’. Topics include convergence and consumers, the commoditisation of consumer data, and empowering consumers to shop smart online.
On Wednesday evening, the ACCC hosted the annual Ruby Hutchison Lecture at the Museum of Sydney. Professor Megan Davis from the Indigenous Law Centre at the University of New South Wales shared her insights on what it means to be an Indigenous consumer today.
The Chairman’s address is available at http://www.accc.gov.au/media/speeches