ACCC compliance and enforcement priorities for 2022/23

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The ACCC’s 2022/23 Compliance And Enforcement Priorities Include Manipulative Or Deceptive Advertising In The Digital Economy, Environmental Claims And Sustainability, And Disruptions To Global And Domestic Supply Chains.

In the annual Committee for Economic Development Australia (CEDA) address in Sydney today, ACCC Chair Rod Sims said the ACCC’s 2022/23 priorities reflected current and emerging issues relating to consumer and fair trading, competition, infrastructure and product safety.

A key consumer and fair trading priority for the ACCC in 2022/23 will be manipulative or deceptive advertising and marketing practices in the digital economy.

“Consumers are facing a growing number of manipulative techniques to exploit or pressure them, and other practices that seek to distort or disregard their consumer choice in the digital economy,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said.

The manipulative techniques include false scarcity reminders such as low-stock warnings, false sales countdown timers, targeted advertising using a consumers’ own data to exploit their individual characteristics, pre-selected add-ons, and design interfaces that discourage unsubscribing.

Other practices of concern include manipulation of online reviews and search results, and comparison websites and social media influencers who don’t disclose commercial relationships including paid promotions.

“To realise the full benefit of online markets consumers and businesses must be confident to engage online,” Mr Sims said.

The ACCC will also closely scrutinise businesses making environmental and sustainability claims, including claims about consumer goods, manufacturing, the energy sector, and carbon neutrality

“Many consumers are increasingly considering the environmental impact of the products and services they buy. We are aware of growing concerns that some businesses are falsely promoting environmental or green credentials to capitalise on these consumer preferences,” Mr Sims said.

“We are also seeing businesses incurring the costs of genuine environmentally friendly manufacturing processes face unfair competition from businesses making misleading environmental and sustainability claims without incurring the same costs.”

Competition issues in global and domestic supply chains, particularly where they are disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, will be a new competition priority for the ACCC.

“The importance of effective and competitive supply chains has been more evident than ever during the pandemic,” Mr Sims said.

COVID-related staff shortages, port congestion and transport interruptions have disrupted the supply of many retail goods from fresh food and groceries to clothing and medications.

“Where we have evidence of businesses taking advantage of the situation to fix prices or share markets, we will take appropriate action,” Mr Sims said.

Within its work in infrastructure regulation, the ACCC will prioritise issues in the airlines and airports industry.

“It is not only travellers who have felt the impact of the pandemic. The aviation sector itself has been particularly hard-hit,” Mr Sims said.

When prioritising its work on product safety, the ACCC will continue to build on the successful initiatives of recent years that have led to the introduction of world-leading new safety standards for quad bikes and button batteries.

In June, the ACCC will announce its annual product safety priorities in more detail at the National Consumer Congress.

“The ACCC’s compliance and enforcement work is not limited to these priorities,” Mr Sims said.

“We are an evidence-based agency and will exercise discretion to direct resources to matters that provide the greatest overall benefit for the consumer and competition.”

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