Published on Apr 10, 2018
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Don’t be a dinosaur with your business conduct
Businesses big and small can run afoul of business conduct laws.
The industries most likely to experience negative impacts as a result of business conduct issues include retail banking, insurance, power and utilities, and telcos such as Activ8me, which was recently slugged with a fine for misleading statements about its services, according to Deloitte Access Economics.
Conduct issues aren’t limited to any one industry and any business can find itself in hot water, as Heinz did recently, when the Federal Court found it to have mislead consumers about the nutritional value of its product, ‘Shredz’. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) launched proceedings in 2016, stating:
“Heinz is marketing these products as healthy options for young children when they are not,” said ACCC chairman Rod Sims.
“These products contain over 60% sugar, which is significantly higher than that of natural fruit and vegetables – for example, an apple contains approximately 10% sugar.”
Penalties have yet to be decided for Heinz’ breach of Australian Consumer Law.
With the high level of scrutiny on business conduct, even if you get it right the other 98% of the time just one mistake can find your business in legal or reputational hot-water.
What is business conduct?
Business conduct incorporates a range of behaviours, from bullying in the workplace to privacy of information, advertising and product statements to pricing.
More and more it includes the kind of relationships businesses form with suppliers. This can include activities such as who you source your product from. How your suppliers conduct themselves can also have an impact on your business.
Businesses used to be able to ignore poor conduct further down the supply chain (think sweat-shops and the garment trade) but advancements in social media have made it harder for unethical operators to remain invisible, making it necessary for businesses to undertake better conduct-checks on suppliers.
Why bother with a Code of Practice?
In our media and data-rich environment, poor business conduct is scrutinised like never before and mistakes can severely impact your business.
Codes of conduct, also called Codes of Practice, can inspire confidence in customers, employees and suppliers, smoothing the sometimes bumpy road of business conduct.
Industries often have Codes of Practice, which outline how businesses in that sector should conduct themselves. If you are new to business, make sure you check out if a Code of Practice relates to you here.
If there is not an industry code, consider establishing your own. Having a code set up means you make decisions about topics including refunds, staff conduct and disputes, to name a few, so you can operate your business confidently.
Visit: https://www.accc.gov.au/business/industry-codes for more information on industry codes.
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