The ACCC recently released its quarterly ACCCount update of its enforcement and other activities for the July-September 2012 quarter.
Headline achievements for the quarter include:
- collecting over $6.8 million in court penalties in enforcement cases relating to fair trading and consumer protection, bringing total penalties under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) to $19.42m for the 2011 year;
- commencing four proceedings in the Federal Court;
- obtaining four court enforceable undertakings; and
- receiving payment in respect of four infringement notices.
Some of the notable penalties over this period are:
- a $2 million penalty against Energy Watch and its former CEO in July 2012 for misleading advertising about energy savings;
- a $2.5 million penalty against EDirect in September 2012 for misleading and deceptive conduct in relation to mobile phone contracts in indigenous communities;
- penalties totalling $500,000 for three publishing companies and a director for engaging in misleading and deceptive conduct, harassment and coercion, and unconscionable conduct in relation to advertising services that were never requested or provided;
- penalties of $800,000 against Metricon Homes for false or misleading advertising and promotional material;
- $50,000 penalties for the trader who operated Rosie’s Free Range Eggs, for substituting cage eggs for free range; and
- the first case brought under the Unsolicited Consumer Agreement provisions of the ACL, in which the Court declared that door to door salespeople engaged by Neighbourhood Energy and Australian Green Credits breached the ACL by failing to leave the homes of consumers when requested, including by way of a ‘Do Not Knock’ sign. The two companies were ordered to pay penalties totalling $1 million.
Australian businesses operating internationally should keep in mind that it is not just the ACCC with its eye on them for anticompetitive conduct. In increasingly globalised markets, it is worth noting that of the 13 antitrust fines over $10m that have been collected by the US Department of Justice thus far in 2012, 10 were from non-US companies.