Funeral businesses using their significant market power to bundle services and block new entrants to the market or engaging in unconscionable conduct, have made the sector a key enforcement focus for the ACCC in 2020, said ACCC Chair Rod Sims in a speech to the annual Committee for Economic Development Australia (CEDA) today.
“The sector has long provoked consumer complaints, not least because consumers engage with the funeral sector at a time when they are grieving, vulnerable and at a disadvantage,” said Mr Sims, who was announcing the ACCC’s Compliance and Enforcement priorities for 2020.
Mr Sims said the annual list of priorities, ranging from implementation of the new Dairy Code to the enforcement of the Government’s new energy misconduct laws, provide focus to the ACCC’s enforcement and advocacy work.
The Government’s commitment to funding the establishment of a permanent Digital Platforms Branch will ensure the ACCC’s continual scrutiny of the vital digital sector.
“We have advanced investigations involving digital platforms allegedly misleading consumers about the collection and the use of their personal data, and we have important competition matters before us,” said Mr Sims.
The pricing and selling practices of essential services, combined with the lack of transparency in their pricing, continue to be an area of concern for the ACCC, and have been retained as a priority in 2020.
“We have taken considerable, recent enforcement action in relation to electricity and telecommunications, and it appears this will continue,” said Mr Sims.
The growing community attention to health-related issues has led the ACCC to take a more active role in preventing deceptive conduct in the marketing of food products.
“Misleading claims about health or nutritional benefits harm consumers as they often pay a higher price for products without receiving the benefits claimed,” said Mr Sims.
The recent parliamentary inquiry into the franchising sector shone a light on a number of practices in the sector, in particular the enforcement of the Franchising Code of Conduct.
“We will continue to implement education initiatives to empower both franchisees and franchisors to effectively resolve disputes, and take strong enforcement action for significant breaches of the small business protection provisions of the CCA and the Franchising Code.”
“We also have a dedicated Commercial Construction Unit looking at conduct affecting competition and poor trading practises in the commercial construction sector, including secondary boycotts and other conduct impacting small businesses and large public and private projects,” said Mr Sims.
“As I said last year, consumer guarantees remains the number one issue that the ACCC and the Australian Consumer Law regulators have to deal with.”
“In 2020 we aim to improve industry compliance with consumer guarantees through a combination of industry education and guidance and enforcement action where appropriate. There will be a particular focus on educating consumers to understand their consumer rights, and empowering them to enforce them.”
Mr Sims also spoke about the progress of the Takata airbag recall with 2.6 million of the 3 million affected vehicles now repaired.