The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) recently released its quarterly report for September 2013. The report provides an outline of the activities that the ACCC, along with the Australian Energy Regulator, have been involved in during the last quarter.
During this period the ACCC was involved in 10 ongoing competition enforcement proceedings across a range of industries, including air freight, manufacturing and financial services. The quarter also saw the continuation of 36 consumer protection cases, dealing with the conduct of the energy sector, false claims as to country of origin and consumer guarantees. The ACCC has now undertaken 10 cases under the Australian Consumer Law, where the Federal Court has issued penalties in excess of $1 million.
The report notes that many of these cases have been assisted through the use of the ACCC’s statutory information gathering powers under section 155 of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010. Notices issued under section 155 require information and documents to be handed over to the ACCC, and may also require attendance at examinations before the ACCC.
Despite this statutory power, the ACCC has observed that in recent times there has been an increase in behaviour that could be potentially be described as ‘non-compliant’ in the context of section 155 notices. Examples of such behaviour that may result in or lead to non-compliance include:
- seeking variations to notices too close to the due date without providing adequate explanation;
- failing to provide a response by the due date; and
- incomplete or inaccurate responses.
While section 155 notices are not used in every matter the ACCC deals with, they are an important part of the investigatory process. Ensuring compliance with these notices is of critical importance to the ACCC. Accurate information enables the ACCC to consider and determine whether the conduct in question requires further action to be taken. All clients should promptly seek legal advice upon receipt of a section 155 notice in order to prevent non-compliance.