In Australia, competition and consumer law are governed by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). This body is responsible for ensuring that businesses comply with competition and consumer law and that consumers are protected from unfair or deceptive conduct.
What is competition and consumer law?
Competition law is designed to promote competition in the marketplace by ensuring that businesses don’t engage in anti-competitive conduct. This includes preventing businesses from entering into agreements that restrict competition, or from using their market power to engage in practices that reduce choice or raise prices for consumers.
Consumer law is designed to protect consumers from unfair or misleading conduct by businesses. This includes making sure that businesses don’t make false or misleading claims about their products or services or engage in unethical conduct.
Examples of competition and consumer law breaches
There are a number of different ways in which businesses can breach competition and consumer law. Some common examples include:
- Making false or misleading claims about a product or service.
- Engaging in unconscionable conduct.
- Misleading or deceiving consumers about their rights.
- Making false or misleading representations about prices.
- Restricting supply to increase prices.
Resolving competition and consumer law breaches
If a consumer believes a business has breached competition or consumer law, there are a number of steps they can take to resolve the issue.
- lodge a complaint with the ACCC, or with your state or territory’s fair-trading agency.
- take legal action against a business in court.
If your business has become the subject of legal action, it’s important to get advice from a lawyer before proceeding. There are time limits for taking action, and you may need to provide evidence to support your defence. You can also try to resolve issues by negotiating with a consumer directly. If you can reach an agreement, a court could make orders to enforce the agreement.
Consequences for businesses that breach competition law in Australia
The ACCC can take a number of enforcement actions against businesses that breach competition or consumer law. These include:
- issuing infringement notices
- accepting enforceable undertakings, and
- taking legal action in court.
The consequences for businesses that breach competition or consumer law will depend on the nature and severity of the breach. In some cases, businesses may be fined, while in others they may be ordered to change their behaviour or compensate consumers.
Protecting your business from potential breaches of competition and consumer law
There are a number of things you can do to protect your business from breaching laws governed by the ACCC, including:
- Keeping up to date with the latest competition and consumer law developments.
- Seeking legal advice if you’re unsure about whether your conduct complies with the law.
- Putting in place competition and consumer law compliance policies and procedures.
If you believe another business has breached competition or consumer law, you can lodge a complaint with the ACCC. You can also take legal action against the business in court.
Taking action against a business that has breached competition or consumer law can be a complex and time-consuming process. If you’re thinking about taking legal action, it’s important to get advice from a lawyer before proceeding.
Seek professional advice when signing a retail or commercial lease
At Lakis & Knight, we help SMEs and public companies make informed decisions about how to respond to alleged breaches of competition and consumer law. We can also make an assessment to ensure your business complies with competition and consumer law to prevent issues down the track.
Our personalised approach and fixed-fee service offering ensure you can get on with running your business and serving your customers or clients. If you’d like to speak further about issues relating to competition and consumer law, contact us to book your free, no-obligation discovery session.