Everything You Need to Know About the ACCC
Introducing the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission
You may not have heard of the ACCC, but you definitely should have – especially if you’re looking to enter a career in business or marketing.
The ACCC is an independent Commonwealth authority that regulates competition in Australian markets to ensure that customers, businesses, and the general community are treated fairly. It states that:
Our primary responsibility is to ensure that individuals and businesses comply with Australian competition, fair trading, and consumer protection laws – in particular the Competition and Consumer Act 2010.
They are involved in big market developments and are one of the most influential bodies in Australia. The ACCC has an impressive track record of enforcing and prosecuting their regulations and aren’t afraid of calling out titans of industry.
Your Rights as a Consumer
While the most exciting things the ACCC are up to are within their anti-competition law and misuse of market power, they still play an important role in securing your rights as a consumer.
Recently in March 2019, the ACCC investigated Pandora and found them guilty of breaching consumer law due to misleading customers on refunds. The ACCC accepted a court enforceable undertaking from the jewellery group, who admitted to having told customers that they were denied refunds or replacements.
Let's get Digital
Other elements of the ACCC that are currently garnering attention are based in technology, such as digital platforms and advertising on social media, as well as consumer data rights. In 2018, the regulatory body published a preliminary report outlining potentially enforceable areas under investigation including transparency of data practices and the level of disclosure to customers. In 2019, the watchdog has stated that they will also place priority on regulating advertising practices on social media, including subscription traps (when you sign up for a low-cost or free trial of a product, only to be locked into a contract subscription).
In Antitrust We Trust
One of the most exciting parts of the ACCC’s recent work was a report published in December of 2018, where they criticised Facebook and Google’s potential misuses of market power. They proposed several adjustments and investigations into the tech giants, including a new regulatory body to monitor digital advertising, suggesting a change to the Privacy Act to create an “opt-in” system for targeted advertisement. Other proposed recommendations were to the handling of personal data and to the social responsibility of the firms.
This report had a global impact for being one of the first of its kind, and the strongest moves to manage the growing power of the digital powerhouses.
Maybe We Should break up
The ACCC is also famous for its strong anti-cartel and monopoly regulations. A merger between household names TPG and Vodafone is still under consideration for approval by the ACCC since the telecom businesses proposed it in August 2018. Their concerns lie in the mobile network operator market becoming less competitive causing price increases, as TPG is slowly becoming established as an aggressive competitor as the fourth mobile network operator in Australia.
Something that may be of interest to the many commerce students of UniMelb is that the ACCC were requested by labour – but did not follow up on – was that the big four (Deloitte, EY, KPMG, and PwC) were operating as a cartel due to the four CEOs having several private dinners together.
The ACCC is a regulatory more people should know more about. For students, keeping up with the latest developments in the ACCC’s movements will broaden your awareness of current affairs and market trends. They also do grad jobs!
Note, this post was NOT sponsored by the Australian Government.