In a report setting out its work in the small business sector between 1 January and 30 June 2014 the ACCC has claimed it is committed to protecting the interests of small business and enforcing the Australian Consumer Law.

To that end, the ACCC has acknowledged that misleading conduct and false representations continue to be the biggest small business issue.  The complaint figures appear to back this up, with over 1500 complaints about misleading conduct and false representations having been received by the ACCC in the 2013–14 financial year.  Breaches of the consumer guarantees also continue to be a concern, with over 900 complaints being made in the same period regarding this particular aspect of the Australian Consumer Law.

The ACCC Deputy Chair, Dr Michael Schaper, recently stated that:

“Small businesses often rely on a unique selling point to compete.
f a large business presents a product as having a feature that it
doesn’t, this can harm small businesses,”

It does seem that the ACCC is committed to stamping out the unfair practices of larger business.  In recent times it has taken action against the likes of Coles, Carlton & United Breweries, Woolworths and SensaSlim Australia.

Going forward, priority areas for the ACCC include emerging online trading issues; complexity and unfairness in consumer or small business contracts; conduct in concentrated markets which impacts on small business consumers or suppliers; credence claims (such as organic and country of origin claims); and consumer guarantees, particularly in relation to the sale of extended warranties.

If you are concerned that your business is being adversely affected by breaches of the Australian Consumer Law by other larger businesses you may wish to contact the ACCC Small Business Helpline: 1300 302 021.

If you are concerned that you may be breaching the Australian Consumer Law or that you do not have the appropriate policies, procedures and documentation in place to ensure that you do not commit such a breach, please contact:

Joanne D’Andrea
Principal
Harwood Andrews
T: 03 5226 8567
E: jdandrea@harwoodandrews.com.au