By Patrick Avenell

SYDNEY, NSW: The ACCC has today happily declared a net of $3.6 million in penalties during the first 12 months of new consumer protection laws. The boastful release included a mention of Optus, which has had been penalised 27 times for a total of almost $180,000.

New powers were afforded to the ACCC last year under new Australian Consumer Laws. ACCC chairman Graeme Samuel said these new laws effectively turned the ACCC from a toothless tiger in a prowling lion.

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"Until a year ago, the ACCC's ability to penalise a great deal of dishonest conduct amounted to not much more than a slap on the wrist," he said. "Now the punishments can better match the crime and we can respond in a more timely way."

The bulk of the $3.6 million in penalties comes from two fines totally $2.7 million, against Yellow Page Marketing and Yellow Publishing Limited.

Samuel concluded by saying that despite this feasting, the lion is not satisfied.

"As greater use is made of the new powers and penalties they will become a deterrent to others thereby increasing compliance with the law," he said.