Australian Competition and Consumer Commission

11/11/2019 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 11/10/2019 23:24

ACCC issues ACCCount for September 2019 quarter

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) works to enhance the welfare of Australians by promoting competition, fair trading and regulating national infrastructure.

This report highlights the range of activities engaged in by the ACCC to achieve its purpose in the September 2019 quarter, including:

  • enforcing competition laws in relation to cartel conduct, anti-competitive agreements, misuse of market power, and mergers that substantially lessen competition
  • protecting consumers from unfair business practices and unsafe products
  • regulating national services, infrastructure and markets with limited competition or natural monopoly characteristics
  • studying, monitoring and reporting on competition and consumer issues in specific markets and industries, and
  • advocacy and collaboration to promote competition and fair trading.

Key enforcement outcomes for the quarter were:

  • $26.5 million in penalties ordered against Cornerstone Investments Aust Pty Ltd (t/a Empower Institute, in liquidation), the highest total penalties ever imposed for breaches of the Australian Consumer Law (ACL). The Federal Court also ordered Empower Institute to repay more than $56 million to the Commonwealth for funding it had received to provide VET FEE-HELP Diploma courses
  • the largest ever criminal fine imposed under the Competition and Consumer Act of $34.5 million, following the conviction of Japanese shipping company Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha Ltd for criminal cartel conduct
  • the first court-imposed penalty for a contravention of the new Horticulture Code against Australia's largest potato wholesaler, Mitolo Group Pty Ltd.

Anonymous reporting portals were launched for people to report cartel conduct and anticompetitive conduct in the construction industry.

Key outcomes in the agriculture sector included:

  • releasing the final report of the wine grape market study
  • commencing an inquiry into markets for tradeable water rights in the Murray-Darling Basin
  • assisting the government with the development of a mandatory code of conduct for the dairy industry.

The ACCC commenced a review of a proposal by Australia Post to increase the price of its ordinary letter service. While the ACCC does not have a role in approving proposed price increases, it must assess the proposal and produce a public report.

The ACCC made a number of merger decisions, including deciding not to oppose the proposed acquisition by Saputo Dairy Australia Pty Ltd of Lion Dairy & Drinks Pty Ltd's Tasmanian-based cheese business.

The ACCC released the Button Battery Safety Issues Paper, continued work on product safety recalls, including the Takata airbag recall, and commenced a safety review of products designed for infants, such as bouncers, rockers and inclined sleep products.

The ACCC released a number of publications during the quarter, including the following:

  • the final report of the Foreign currency conversion services inquiry, which revealed that Australian consumers are paying too much for foreign currency conversion services because of confusing pricing and a lack of robust competition
  • the final report of the Digital Platforms Inquiry into the impact of digital search engines, social media platforms and digital content aggregation platforms on competition in the media and advertising markets
  • the final report of the wine grape market study, which proposes recommendations on areas including quality assessments, price transparency, payment periods, dispute resolution and unfair contract terms
  • the Customer Loyalty Schemes draft report, which details draft findings and recommendations and raises concerns about the opaque terms and conditions of loyalty schemes
  • the second report of the inquiry into the prices, profits and margins in relation to the supply of electricity in the National Electricity Market
  • the sixth Measuring Broadband Australia report
  • the NBN wholesale market indicators report
  • the quarterly petrol monitoring report
  • the seventh Gas Inquiry Report
  • an update on the Northern Australia insurance inquiry.

The ACCC engaged with counterparts on a range of product safety, consumer, competition and regulatory matters, including discussing with international agencies the development of new legislation relating to digital platforms and competition in digital markets.

To read the full report, see: ACCCount 1 July to 30 September 2019.

Published date:
11 November 2019