ACCC puts electrical retailers on alert

For consumer guarantees, anti-competitive practices.

Retailers selling electrical appliances and whitegoods will be a key enforcement priority for the ACCC in 2019 with concerns that many manufacturers and large retailers are not complying with consumer guarantee laws, chairman, Rod Sims said at the annual Committee for Economic Development Australia (CEDA).

“Electrical and whitegoods products are the second most complained about industry after motor vehicles,” he said.

“Last year we received nearly 9,000 contacts about electrical appliances and whitegoods, with three quarters of those relating to break downs or other quality issues.”

Customer loyalty schemes will be another new priority, with the ACCC closely examining the use of any personal data collected, whether consumers receive the benefits promised, and the impact on competing firms and new entrants.

“While these customer loyalty schemes are ubiquitous across many sectors, questions arise about whether consumers are being properly informed and receiving the benefits touted by many of these programs,” Sims said.

The ACCC will also continue to advocate for changes which benefit consumers, including much higher maximum penalties for corporations which breach the consumer law. Maximum penalties for each breach are now the greater of $10 million, or three times the benefit from the breach or, if the benefit cannot be calculated, 10% of the annual Australian sales turnover.

“We believe that Parliament, in changing the law, intended that in certain cases in future we will see penalties of over $100 million for breaches of consumer law.

“A new advocacy priority for us is to introduce a prohibition of unfair contract terms. At present, when a contact term is declared to be unfair by a court, it is void but no penalty applies. We believe it is time to prohibit unfair terms and apply a penalty for their inclusion in standard form contracts.”

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