Key areas of focus for the year ahead
A number of industries and issues are in the spotlight following the release of the ACCC's 2022/2023 Enforcement and Compliance Priorities by Chairman Rod Sims on 3 March.
'Green' claims, misleading conduct online, disruptions to supply chains, exclusive contracting, digital platforms and essential services will all be a focus in 2022/2023. The ACCC is also advocating for significant changes to the consumer law and the current merger regime.
The ACCC will focus on a number of key industries:
- Competition issues in financial services, with a focus on payment services.
- Competition and consumer issues in digital platform markets, such as payments, search, apps and adtech.
- Pricing and selling of essential services, particularly in energy and telecommunications.
The ACCC will also be monitoring the government reinsurance pool to ensure it is working effectively and as intended.
- The ACCC will focus on exclusive arrangements (including MFNs) by firms with market power, especially those that restrict access to goods or services or hamper new entry.
- Disruptions to global and domestic supply chains caused by the COVID-19 pandemic will be in focus. The ACCC will work with international counterparts to detect conduct such as price fixing and market sharing.
- Cartel conduct remains a priority, with a number of investigations on foot and six cartel matters currently before the Court.
- The ACCC will focus on misleading environmental claims, especially 'green credentials' in relation to consumer goods and 'carbon neutral' claims in relation to production processes.
- Marketing practices in the digital economy will be under scrutiny, eg false scarcity reminders and manipulation of online reviews and search results.
- Enforcement in consumer guarantees remains a priority (particularly in relation to motor vehicles and caravans).
- The ACCC’s key product safety focus will be button batteries and children’s products.
- The ACCC will continue to focus on small business (especially agriculture and franchising), including through enforcement of industry codes.
The ACCC is advocating for:
- an unfair trading practices prohibition;
- making breaches of the consumer guarantees illegal;
- a national safety provision;
- reforms to the merger control regime; and
- legislative reform to address concerns about the dominance of digital platforms.
The ACCC will continue to monitor for consumer and fair trading issues relating to the COVID-19 pandemic, eg the ACCC will:
- seek to address any issues being faced by consumers seeking to redeem vouchers for cancelled services;
- continue to work with industry to ensure a return in consumer confidence, especially in hard-hit industries such as travel; and
- continue to monitor the domestic aviation sector to identify any behaviour in the industry that may be damaging competition.