Standing to scrutiny: House Economics Standing Committee to scrutinise the ACCC
The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics will scrutinise the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) in a public hearing tomorrow as part of its review of the ACCC Annual Report 2017.
In a media release issued yesterday, the Chair of the committee, Ms Sarah Henderson MP, said ‘the hearing provides a timely opportunity for the committee to scrutinise the ACCC on its performance and operation.’
Focus of the review
The committee will examine the ACCC’s continuing work on competition compliance and enforcement. The media release recognises the ACCC’s significant achievements for 2017, including the successful conclusion of the Harper review on competition policy, and the ACCC’s cartel investigations that have resulted in criminal and civil proceedings.
The committee will also examine the ACCC’s performance as the national consumer law champion. The media release makes note of the Treasury Laws Amendment (2018 Measures No. 3) Bill 2018, which will align penalties under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) with the maximum penalties available under the competition provisions of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (CCA). On Wednesday, the House of Representatives agreed to the third reading of the Bill, and the Bill was introduced and read a first time in the Senate. We expect that ACL penalties will increase from 1 July 2018.
Emphasis on financial services
The media release makes specific reference to the ACCC’s role as competition regulator in the financial services sector.
During the committee’s scrutiny of the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) in a public hearing last Friday, Ms Henderson noted that the corporate regulator has been criticised for being too ‘soft’ and ‘risk-averse’ in pursuing major corporations for misconduct.
We wonder whether the committee’s scrutiny of the ACCC will prove to be equally tense.
Public hearing details
The public hearing will be held from 8:30am to 11:00am on Friday 29 June and will be broadcast live at www.aph.gov.au/live. We will keep you updated!