On 1 December 2015, the ACCC announced that a review of the Australian Consumer Law will commence next year (with a final report expected by March 2017).

Current ACCC priorities

In announcing the review, the ACCC provided some insight into its current areas of priority:

  • all forms of online conduct, including drip pricing and truth in advertising
  • the food and grocery sector – product advertising/labelling and the conduct of retailers in dealing with suppliers
  • product safety and product recalls
  • unconscionable conduct – recent cases have lowered the threshold and clarified the scope of such conduct

What does this mean for Australian businesses

Australian businesses should undertake a “health check” on your compliance systems especially in relation to marketing collateral, labelling and product safety.

Likely changes?

Although the review will be conducted by Consumer Affairs Australia and New Zealand, the ACCC will seek the following changes:

  • new penalties for misleading conduct and higher penalties for other breaches
  • abolishing Australian standards where a product meets a trusted international standard
  • removing the “public company” exemption from unconscionable conduct
  • review of conduct of sharing economy businesses
  • increasing the transparency of pricing of goods and services

What could this mean for Australian businesses

  • potentially increased compliance costs to minimise risk of significant fines for breaches
  • less regulatory duplication in complying with multiple standards but potentially increased costs for packaging/labelling changes
  • public companies could be the subject of unconscionable conduct so parties with major bargaining power that are dealing with them will need to ensure they do not act in a manifestly unfair manner
  • increased compliance costs for emerging P2P businesses
  • ensuring full, frank and early disclosure of full payable price (especially in online sales).