The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission ("ACCC") recently released its 2014 Compliance and Enforcement Policy ("Policy"), which outlines its enforcement priorities, strategies and focus areas for the coming year.

The Policy identifies nine new consumer protection priorities, representing a combination of priorities from the 2013 Compliance and Enforcement Policy and several new areas of concern. 

The enforcement priorities for 2014 are:

  1. door-to-door selling and telemarketing in the telecommunications and energy sectors, with a focus on savings representations;
  2. emerging consumer issues in the online marketplace, such as comparator websites and drip-pricing (incremental disclosure of additional fees and charges);
  3. competition and consumer issues in the supermarket and fuel sectors;
  4. the disruption of scams that rely on establishing deceptive relationships and which cause severe and widespread consumer or small business detriment;
  5. complexity and unfairness in consumer or small business contracts;
  6. credence claims, particularly those with the potential to adversely impact the competitive process and small businesses;
  7. misleading carbon pricing representations;
  8. the ACL consumer guarantees regime, particularly in the context of the sale of extended warranties; and
  9. consumer protection issues impacting on Indigenous consumers.

The Policy also identifies several types of conduct that are "so detrimental to consumer welfare and the competitive process" that the ACCC always regards them as priorities, including cartel conduct, anti-competitive agreements, misuse of market power and product safety.

In order to achieve its compliance objectives, the ACCC will implement a flexible and integrated strategy, under which it will work with other agencies to educate businesses and consumers on their rights and obligations under the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 ("CCA") and enforce contraventions of the CCA through administrative resolutions, infringement notices, section 87B enforceable undertakings and litigation. 

Last year, the ACCC took approximately 35 cases to court, accepted 30 court enforceable undertakings and issued 30 infringement notices.  In launching the Policy, ACCC Chairman, Rod Sims, reinforced the ACCC’s proactive approach to enforcement stating that "enforcing the law in this way sends a powerful message of deterrence to businesses". 

The Policy and the review highlight the importance of maintaining comprehensive competition policies and procedures in your organisation. 

To view the Policy, click here.