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Shaping our future: cost of living and the digital economy

Consumer and competition issues in the supermarket sector and essential services including electricity and financial services are among the ACCC’s compliance and enforcement priorities for the year ahead, ACCC Chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb announced today.

“Our priorities continue to be shaped by the key challenges facing our economy and the concerns that occupy our community,” Ms Cass-Gottlieb said, speaking at a Committee for Economic Development Australia (CEDA) event in Sydney.

“Principal amongst these shaping influences are the existential importance of the net zero transition, the opportunities and disruptions of digital transformation, and the significant impact of cost of living pressures across our community.”

In the digital economy, the ACCC will focus on consumer protection and fair trading issues for small business including misleading or deceptive conduct in influencer marketing, online reviews, price comparison websites and in-app purchases – especially in the video gaming industry.

“The gaming industry has significant size and reach, particularly with younger consumers,” Ms Cass-Gottlieb said.


“Far too often we hear concerns about consumers incurring huge purchases because of in-app offerings that have inadequate safeguards, or in some cases, deliberately target and nudge or confuse consumers.”

Ms Cass-Gottlieb said the ACCC would also continue to prioritise improving business compliance with consumer guarantees, this year especially in the sale of home electronics and delivery times for online purchases.

“A key concern that has recently emerged is the delay in delivery and non-delivery of consumer products. Delivery timeframes are a key consideration for many consumers when choosing a retailer,” Ms Cass-Gottlieb said.

Ms Cass-Gottlieb said because Australian consumers were facing rising costs across a range of products and services, they were more vulnerable to anti-competitive conduct and misleading representations.

With this in mind, the ACCC will prioritise competition, fair trading, consumer protection and pricing issues in the supermarket sector, with a focus on food and groceries. This work will include the 12-month price inquiry commenced in January.

“This priority reflects the concerns of many Australian consumers and farmers about supermarket pricing that have been expressed to the ACCC and publicly,” Ms Cass-Gottlieb said.

“We also have a role to ensure that consumers are not misled and that claims about specials, discounts and advertised prices are truthful and accurate.”

Competition, consumer and product safety issues in sustainability and the net zero transition will remain a priority, Ms Cass-Gottlieb said, as will competition and consumer issues in the aviation sector.

Improving compliance with the Australian Consumer Law by National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) providers was newly listed following the ACCC commencing chairing a joint taskforce involving NDIS agencies.

Compliance with unfair contract terms laws will also be a priority in contracts relating to small businesses and consumers, supported by new penalties taking effect in late 2023.

For the first time, the ACCC’s work protecting the small business sector was listed as an enduring priority.

“Small business is a significant contributor to our economy and supports the livelihoods of many Australians,” Ms Cass-Gottlieb said.

Taking action on cartel conduct remains at the heart of the ACCC’s role as a competition enforcement agency. Cartel conduct is and will remain an enduring priority.

“Cartels undermine the competitive process removing competition, restricting output, and increasing price of everyday goods for all Australians,” Ms Cass-Gottlieb said.

“We are proud of our history of cartel enforcement, and will continue to bring cartel proceedings, including criminal cartel proceedings by referring briefs to the Commonwealth Department of Public Prosecutions.”

The ACCC’s work in the National Anti-Scam Centre was also newly listed as an enduring priority, joining anti-competitive conduct, product safety, conduct impacting consumers experiencing vulnerability or disadvantage and conduct impacting First Nations Australians.

“This year we are establishing a dedicated First Nations coordination, outreach and advocacy team that will help inform and align all our activities across the whole agency regarding conduct impacting First Nations Australians,” Ms Cass-Gottlieb said.

Notably, 2024 also marks the 50th anniversary of the Trade Practices Act – now the Competition and Consumer Act – a significant milestone for the legislation which remains the foundation for much of the ACCC’s work.

“We recognise the importance of strong enforcement outcomes in achieving specific and general deterrence of conduct prohibited by the Act and in ensuring that consumers, business and the wider community continue to have confidence in our market economy,” Ms Cass-Gottlieb said.


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