The coming of the cartel crackdown
The ACCC is going gang busters on cartels. Not quite as scary as the days of Pablo Escobar, but nonetheless, it's a serious warning to Australian businesses.
First bust was a cartel between Colgate, Cussons and Unilever to stop supplying standard concentrate laundry powder to Woolies. Unilever was immune as the whistleblower. Colgate paid $18M for its involvement. Woolies just copped the biggest fine yet for an accessory at $9M. Cussons' hearing is still to come.
Two other scalps include a company director inducing reduction of egg supply and a bid rigging arrangement on a cable supply tender. And the prosecutions just keep coming. The freshest meat includes a polycarbonate roofing cartel and the very first exercise of the criminal cartel provisions against a Japanese shipping company in connection with the importation of vehicles.
The message? Tread very carefully in any dealing with competitors.
Snack food surprise!
Look out for your lunchboxes. Unilever and Smiths just copped spot fines of $10,800 over snack food health claims. Surprisingly, Rainbow Paddle Pops (fun fact did you know they are caramel flavoured?) and Pizza Supreme Rice Snacks don't quite count as `healthy options' for school canteens.
Similarly, the ACCC is prosecuting Heinz for misleading consumers in relation to its Little Kids Shredz products. Heinz marketed the products as having equivalent
nutritional value to fruit and vegetables. Turns out they are actually over 60%
sugar. A Shredz a day certainly will not keep the doctor away.
Butt they are better than cigarettes?
On the topic of health, two ecigarette online retailers (and their CEOs) have had proceedings commenced against them for representing on their websites that e cigarette products did not contain toxic chemicals such as those found in conventional cigarettes. These representations went up in smoke upon independent testing by the ACCC. With the jury still out on the benefits of the vape, the outcome of this case will be one to watch out for.
Taking you to the (Medi)bank
The ACCC has issued Court proceedings against Medibank for misleading and unconscionable conduct in relation to its subsidiary, ahm, who allegedly limited the benefits paid to members for inhospital pathology and radiology without properly giving its members advanced notice and adopting a strategy of keeping the change contained. The ACCC alleges that Medibank did this to ensure, for example, that its customers would not leave and its reputation would be protected.