With the repeal of the carbon tax by the Commonwealth Parliament, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has been granted new powers to take enforcement action in relation to the new obligations imposed on businesses supplying regulated goods.
In particular, businesses supplying regulated goods – e.g., electricity, natural gas, synthetic greenhouse gases and synthetic greenhouse gas equipment (including refrigerators and air-conditioners) – will be required to pass through all direct and indirect cost savings resulting from the repeal of the carbon tax.
Certain businesses (namely, those involved in the retail supply of electricity and natural gas and in the production of electricity, the sale of electricity into wholesale markets and the bulk importation of synthetic greenhouse gases) will also be required to provide evidence to the ACCC of their compliance with this obligation, explaining how the carbon tax repeal affected input costs and how savings are being passed on to customers.
The ACCC will be ready to investigate and litigate any breaches of these obligations.
Failure to comply with the obligations may attract court-imposed penalties of up to $1.1 million per beach for corporations or $220,000 per breach for individuals. Courts may also impose injunctions or declarations and make orders for compensation, the setting of maximum prices in respect of regulated goods and/or the payment of refunds to customers. Further, those specific businesses referred to above (i.e., those involved in the supply of electricity and natural gas and the importation of synthetic greenhouse gases) will face penalties equal to 250% of the cost savings that were not passed on to customers.
Meanwhile, the ACCC has been granted specific enforcement powers in relation to any misleading representations made by businesses regarding the impact of the carbon tax repeal.