ACCC to focus on broadband, digital economy

By Dylan Bushell-Embling
Wednesday, 21 February, 2018

ACCC to focus on broadband, digital economy

The ACCC will focus its compliance and enforcement priorities for the year ahead on the broadband, digital economy, financial services and energy sectors.

At a Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) event in Sydney yesterday, ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said consumer issues related to the provision of broadband services will figure prominently in the ACCC’s activities for 2018.

“Consumer issues in the provision of broadband services, including addressing misleading speed claims and statements made during the transition to the nbn, have become one of the ACCC’s most prominent issues in the past two years and highlights the importance of both our consumer and competition focus,” he said.

“The first report of the ACCC’s Measuring Broadband Australia program will be released shortly, and our commitment to truth in advertising related to broadband speeds is making it easier for Australians to choose a service provider. You have seen a number of ACCC enforcement actions in 2017 and can expect further interventions this year.”

The ACCC is also in a strong position to play a role in consumer and competition issues relating to access to data, Sims said, specifically the proposal to give consumers access to information about them held by businesses, and to direct that this data be copied and provided to a third party.

Likewise, the ACCC plans to hold its hotly anticipated inquiry into digital platforms this year.

“Concerns about the influence of digital platforms have become prominent in recent years, on many fronts, and this inquiry will be the first of its kind to explore broadly the competition and consumer implications,” Sims said.

“A key question will be how much consumers know about the amount and use of the data about them that is collected and sold by the digital platforms in the form of advertising.”

He also highlighted recent changes to consumer and competition law that will give the regulator the ability to impose higher penalties on companies with a large turnover.

For example, maximum penalties for breach of Australian Consumer Law have just been increased from $1.1 million to either $10 million, three times the value of the unfair benefit received or 10% of a company’s annual turnover in the preceding 12 months.

“Currently, the maximum penalties for breaches of the Australian Consumer Law are, for corporations, approximately one-tenth of the lowest maximum penalty for breaches of the Competition Law,” Sims noted.

“There is no good reason for this difference, as we have seen cases where consumer law breaches have led to very substantial harm to many consumers.”

Image credit: © Tarasov

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