The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and the Australian Energy Regulator have published their annual report for 2011-2012.
ACCC Chairman Rod Sims highlighted the notable achievements of 2012 including strong court judgments, penalties and the first disqualification of an individual from managing companies under the Australian Consumer Law. The ban is in place for 15 years.
“The Australian Consumer Law is now firmly fixed as at the core of good business in Australia. From Penrith to Perth and between Darwin and Dandenong, the Australian Consumer Law is ensuring that consumers are being dealt with fairly,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.
Acting AER Chairman Ed Willett commented on the range of reforms the AER has been progressing in 2011-12 while also undertaking a very significant work program.
“The AER has now completed initial network regulatory determinations under the national regulatory framework for all electricity network businesses in the National Electricity Market,” Mr Willett said.
“Following this work we have reviewed the framework for network regulation and our internal processes. This review resulted in our proposing changes to the framework for energy network regulation, progressing internal developments and introducing new ways of engaging with our stakeholders. The AEMC’s draft rules, made in response to the AER proposal, have accepted the need to address the problems the AER raised.”
“2011-12 also saw the AER finalise its preparation for our new roles under the Retail Energy Law and develop the Energy Made Easy price comparator web site,” Mr Willett said.
The ACCC’s role in monitoring carbon price representations has proven the effectiveness of the education campaign undertaken prior to July 1 2012.
“The ACCC ran an extensive education campaign in the lead up to the introduction of the carbon price mechanism and have quickly pursued some early compliance outcomes,” Mr Sims said.
“The balance between education and enforcement has helped to show business how to do
the right thing.”
The ACCC has also continued its vigilance against cartels, combining an active education and outreach programme, which includes the highly praised short film ‘The Marker’, with a successful litigation agenda. Penalties awarded against international airlines for cartel conduct have resulted in $68 million in penalties to date.
“The ACCC successes have followed the six major priorities I identified in 2011 to steer the ACCC’s enforcement and compliance work over the medium-term,” Mr Sims said.
“These enforcement priorities have seen ACCC court action attract penalties of over $1 million in seven matters for breaches of the Australian Consumer Law to date.”
The transition and implementation of the National Broadband Network (NBN) has also seen significant ACCC involvement, including approving Telstra’s Structural Separation Undertaking (SSU) and commencing consultation on NBN Co’s proposed Special Access Undertaking (SAU).
“The ACCC has also worked to develop an appropriate regulatory framework to ensure that the NBN delivers the competitive benefits to consumers,” Mr Sims said.
The ACCC also continued to build links with global regulators. The ACCC was made a member of the East Asia Top Level Officials Meeting on Competition Policy (EATOP) as well as Being named the Global Competition Review’s Agency of the Year—Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa. The award recognises the ACCC’s creative, strategic and innovative work.
The ACCC and AER annual Report 2011-2012 is available on the AER website.
In the year to 30 June 2012, ACCC activities under the Australian Consumer Law led to:
- More than $10.7 million in civil pecuniary penalties imposed by the Federal Court, illustrating the willingness of the Court to embrace the new penalties provided under the ACL.
- Thirty-four infringement notices issued by the ACCC, with over $220 000 in penalties paid. Infringement notices—which offer the ACCC a simple, expeditious means of dealing with lesser alleged contraventions—were newly provided in the ACL.
- The banning by the Federal Court of a company director from managing a corporation for 15 years, after it was found that he and the firms he established engaged in false, misleading or deceptive conduct in selling business distributorships. This was the first time these new provisions had been applied by the Federal Court.