Tougher penalties for Consumer Law breaches on the horizon

Tougher penalties for Consumer Law breaches on the horizon

 

A substantial rise in penalties may be on the horizon for companies and individuals breaching Australian Consumer Law, says the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

 

If the bill passes Parliament, tougher penalties for Consumer Law breaches will follow. The ACCC recommended fines be raised from $1.1 million for companies, to the greater of $10 million, or 10 percent of the annual turnover of the preceding 12 months.

 

Individuals could also face substantial fines, with penalties proposed to rise from $220,000 to $500,000.

 

It the newly released Compliance & Enforcement Policy, the ACCC outlined its priorities for 2018:

 

  • Continuing the protection of unfair contract terms for small businesses, especially contracts involving large companies or franchisors.

 

  • Examining ‘new car retailing’ consumer guarantees by assessing conduct which could constitute a misuse of market power. Misuse of market power legislation was established in 2017, and gives the ACCC the tools to protect businesses and consumers against activities such as cartel conduct, price signalling and exclusionary practices.

 

  • Consumer guarantees continues to be an issue, with the ACCC focusing on large or national traders who mislead consumers about their rights regarding product guarantees.

 

The ACCCs latest Small Business in Focus report summarised the issues small businesses are facing:

 

  • On the ACCCs agenda, business scams include ‘domain name’ renewal scams, and fake directories and advertising scams. As reported last year, scams targeting small business are rising. The recent Bitcoin scam in the Hunter Valley hit a number of businesses. Scammers have sent flawless copies of invoices and directory listings which are almost impossible to tell from the real thing. Keep up to date on the most recent scams at Scamwatch.

 

  • Changes to the collective bargaining notification process mean small businesses can more easily lodge a notification to obtain legal protection to engage in collective bargaining with customers or suppliers Collective Bargaining.

 

  • The ACCC also reported a rise in the number of reports from customers about product guarantees in the clothing retail trade. The issue of when you must refund a customer is often confusing, and the ACCCs guide Small Business Competition and Consumer Act can help you keep your refund policy within legal guidelines.

 

See the ACCC Complicance & Enforcement Policy for further details.

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