Competition & consumer law amid the COVID-19 pandemic – Your guide to avoiding viral confusion
The COVID-19 pandemic is creating pressure across the economy, with critical sectors looking to find the best way to continue to service the community.
Our KWM alert examines the key competition and consumer laws that businesses may encounter during this time, discusses how the ACCC, the Courts and the Government may approach the unfolding situation, and provides suggestions on how to navigate unexpected challenges. It is important for businesses to be aware that their competition and consumer law obligations still apply during this unprecedented period.
We consider the impact of the COVID-19 events on issues relating to cartel conduct and concerted practices, price gouging, misuse of market power and predatory pricing, consumer guarantees, misleading or deceptive conduct and false or misleading representations, unfair contract terms, and unconscionable conduct, including
- How can competitors work alongside each other to meet the community’s needs without legal risk?
- What will happen if a business drastically increases its prices for scarce goods?
- When is it fair to rely on cancellation clauses in contracts, and what is a business required to do if its customers want refunds?
- What can and can’t a business say when selling, promoting and comparing its products?
- Depending on your industry, you may have already been impacted by the effects of COVID-19– for example, by a spike in the number of customers calling in relation to their rights under the consumer guarantees, or by ‘supply shock’ up and down the chain.
While these unprecedented and challenging times are placing profound pressure on the operations and financial position (even solvency in some instances) of businesses, it’s important to remember that businesses are not exempt from complying with the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Cth) (CCA) and the Australian Consumer Law (ACL). Businesses need to be acutely aware of their obligations under the CCA and the ACL with respect to their dealings with competitors, consumers and other parties, even during this health crisis.