On 8 July 2013 the Federal Court found vehicle rental company BAJV Pty Ltd (BAJV) in breach of the misleading or deceptive conduct and unconscionable conduct provisions of both the Australian Consumer Law(ACL) and the Trade Practices Act 1974 (TPA) (now the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (CCA)). BAJV was found to have falsely represented vehicle repair costs and overcharged customers for damage sustained to hire vehicles. In accordance with the principles for assessing the quantum of penalties, which were established in the case of Singtel Optus Pty Ltd v ACCC (2012) 287 ALR 249, the Court imposed civil penalties of $200,000 on BAJV and $40,000 on BAJV director Brendon Ayers.
In response, the ACCC has lodged a Notice of Appeal in the Federal Court on 29 July 2013 seeking a higher penalty. In its media release the ACCC emphasised the importance of penalties in deterring ACL contraventions that harm consumers. Given the relatively low level of penalties ordered in this case, and given the ACCC’s 2013 enforcement priorities which target consumer protection in a number of sectors, including the vehicle rental industry, the ACCC’s move is to be expected.