Climate control – carbon cop karma

Published On 10/08/2012 | By Charles Deutscher | Enforcement

Since the introduction of the carbon tax on 1 July, the ACCC has received over 1260 complaints through its carbon claims hotline. And in response to those complaints, the ACCC has taken enforcement action on at least four occasions (details below) and expects to take further action over the coming weeks.

But the number of carbon price-related claims received per day declined markedly after the first 10 days of the tax’s operation from around 63 to around 45. “This trend has continued downwards in recent days”, ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.

What’s more, most of the claims have concerned general price increases not specific

complaints about carbon price misrepresentation. The ACCC has also undertaken education and consultation with hundreds of businesses since 1 July to ensure they understand their obligations when making claims about price increases attributed to the carbon tax.

Where carbon price claims have been potentially misleading, the carbon cop hasn’t always taken a cudgel to the culprits either; rather, it has adopted the more subtle approach of issuing businesses (over 30 to date) with educative or warning letters to encourage compliance with their obligations.

As we’ve said previously, the ACCC is keeping energy retailers (and others) on their toes about carbon price increases. But its collaborative approach and the recent decline in carbon price-related complaints suggest that the karma of the carbon cop may be more as an educator than an enforcer. In light of all the bad karma surrounding the tax, that could be a very good thing…

ACCC carbon-related enforcement action to date includes:

  • Polaris Solar Pty Ltd and ACT Renewable Energy Pty Ltd: Informal undertakings were accepted from solar panel suppliers, Polaris Solar Pty Ltd and ACT Renewable Energy Pty Ltd, for carbon price claims in advertising leaflets regarding the impact of the carbon price on household electricity prices that the ACCC considered were likely to mislead.
  • Brumby’s: Retail Food Group, owner of Brumby’s bakery, gave court enforceable undertakings in relation to comments made by Brumby’s to its franchisees in an internal newsletter suggesting that franchisees link retail price increases to the carbon price.
  •  Equipserve: Equipserve Solutions, a refrigeration contractor, offered a court enforceable undertaking in relation to statements made in an email to its customers which attributed the entire amount of an increase in the price of a refrigerant gas to the carbon price when that was not the case.
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