The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), Australia’s peak national agency for consumer protection and competition, has released its 2015 Compliance and Enforcement Policy.  The Policy sets out the ACCC’s priorities for 2015 in enforcing the Australian Consumer Law and the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Cth) more broadly.

What are the ACCC’s 2015 priorities?

Whilst the ACCC will not ignore any claims or complaints that are of significant public interest or concern, or which result in substantial consumer or small business detriment, the ACCC will prioritise its work in the following areas for 2015:

  • Truth in advertising
  • Competition and consumer issues in the health and medical sectors
  • Cartel conduct
  • Compliance with new or amended industry codes of conduct including the Franchising Code and the Food and Grocery Code, which came into effect on 5 March 2015;
  • Emerging issues with the online marketplace;
  • Competition and consumer issues in highly concentrated sectors, for example, the fuel industry;
  • Disruption of scams that rely on building deceptive relationships and which cause widespread consumer or small business detriment;
  • Consumer protection issues impacting on Indigenous consumers; and
  • Consumer protection issues impacting on vulnerable and disadvantaged consumers for example, older consumers and consumers who have recently arrived in Australia.

Truth in advertising: Reckitt Benckiser and Nurofen

In an example of the ACCC targeting truth in advertising and consumer issues in the health and medical sectors, on 4 March 2015, the ACCC issued proceedings against Reckitt Benckiser (Australia) Pty Ltd in relation to claims made by the company regarding its Nurofen products targeting specific pain (eg Nurofen back pain).  

The ACCC alleges that Reckitt Benckiser made representations that each Nurofen product was designed to treat a particular type of pain, had specific efficacy in treating that type of pain and solely treated a particular type of pain.  

According to the ACCC, these representations were false or misleading because all products contained the same active ingredient and were registered on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods as being suitable for treating a wide variety of types of pain.

ACCC advocating tougher penalties for breaches

The ACCC will also be advocating for the courts to impose tougher penalties on companies who have been found to breach the competition and consumer legislation.  This follows from statements in the media and judicial commentary last year that inadequate or insubstantial penalties were imposed on companies who were found to have breached the competition and consumer legislation and as a result, those companies were likely to regard such penalties for breach as ‘the cost of doing business’.

A copy of the 2015 ACCC Compliance and Enforcement Policy can be found here.