The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and Australian Energy Regulator have published their annual report for 2012-13.
ACCC Chairman Rod Sims highlighted the notable achievements, including strong court judgments and penalties for the year.
“The ACCC will continue to take action where it believes there is significant detriment and will ensure that businesses are compliant with the Competition and Consumer Act 2010, including the Australian Consumer Law,” Mr Sims said.
AER Chairman Andrew Reeves commented on a range of reforms that the AER has been progressing to make energy markets work better for consumers.
“The AER aims to promote efficient investment, operation and use of energy services for the long term interests of energy consumers with respect to price, quality, safety, reliability and security of supply,” Mr Reeves said.
“The AER has introduced consumer energy information tools including Energy Made Easy to help small energy customers understand their options and make informed choices about energy.”
The ACCC’s commitment to enhancing competition by tackling cartels has seen significant penalties imposed by the Federal Court against international airlines for cartel conduct relating to the transport of air cargo. The ACCC’s case against the airlines has resulted in $98.6 million in penalties against 12 airlines with its case against three airlines still before the court.
“The ACCC’s vigilance in against detecting, stopping and deterring cartels has also seen the institution of court proceedings against two gas cylinder supply companies, and a motor parts supplier and its subsidiary for alleged cartel conduct,” Mr Sims said.
In 2012-13, the ACCC took action in a number of cases alleging breaches of the Australian Consumer Law in the course of door-to-door sales with the Federal Court imposing $2.5 million in penalties. The ACCC also distributed 95 000 ‘Do Not Knock’ stickers.
“The ACCC put energy retailers on notice that it is closely watching the use of door-to-door sales practices and the conduct of their door-to-door sales people,” Mr Sims said.
Following ACCC action, the Court recently decided that a ‘Do Not Knock’ sticker is a request to leave a consumer’s premises under the Australian Consumer Law, providing further protection for consumers who do not wish to receive unwelcome sales calls.
In the area of mergers, the ACCC opposed acquisitions which would have substantially lessened competition in local hardware, supermarkets and premium sports TV content.
“The ACCC authorised alliances between Qantas and Emirates, Qantas and Jetstar and approved Virgin’s purchase of 60 per cent of Tiger, all of which provided consumer benefit,” Mr Sims said.
The ACCC launched the Your Rights Mob Tiwi Islands Facebook page, which allows the ACCC to identify, understand and respond to important Indigenous consumer issues.
“Educating consumers and businesses of their rights and obligations under the Australian Consumer Law, and protecting vulnerable and disadvantaged consumers, continue to be a priority for the ACCC,” Mr Sims said.
The ACCC also launched its new website which provides simple and easily accessible information for consumers and businesses on ACCC services.
The ACCC continues to take action to protect small businesses. The ACCC instituted proceedings in four matters where the ACCC alleges the conduct harms small business or unfairly restraints the ability of small businesses to compete in a market. The ACCC finalised a further two cases with significant penalties imposed. The ACCC also released an online small business education program to assist small businesses by providing information across a number of topics.
The ACCC and the AER continue to deal with regulatory issues across areas such as communications, transport, energy and water.
“Our regulatory work is critical to the competitive process and to ensuring Australian’s have access to high quality infrastructure now and into the future,” Mr Sims said.
The ACCC is developing access arrangements for the NBN designed to maximise opportunities for effective retail competition, and the AER commenced its Better Regulation program to implement fundamental reforms to the rules for regulating network businesses.