Federation Chamber, 20 June 2018
We've seen yesterday Apple Australia receiving $9 million in fines as a result of misleading consumers about their rights under Australian Consumer Law to get their products repaired. This is another slap-on-the-wrist penalty, following penalties in the Nurofen case which were noted by a number of experts and jurists to be inadequate.
When big business sees consumer penalties as a mere cost of doing business, they are not deterred from ripping off consumers. That's why Labor went to the 2016 election calling on the government to increase penalties and saying that a Labor government would increase penalties for ripping off consumers from $1.1 million to $10 million.
We were delighted again when the government photocopied our policies. It is always a good day for Australia when Liberals photocopy Labor policies, as they did in last year's budget. But while they photocopied it, they forgot to hand it in, so we have a nominal commitment by the Turnbull government to raising the penalties for ripping off Australian consumers—from $1.1 million to $10 million—but the bill languishes in the House. Labor is ready to pass that bill, the Treasury Laws Amendment (2018 Measures No. 3) Bill 2018. The provisions in that bill that increase the penalties for ripping off consumers have bipartisan support.
So you've got to ask what's holding them up. Why are the Liberals so quick to act when it comes to beating up on vulnerable social security recipients but so slow to act when it comes to the critical issue of getting right the penalties on the big end of town?
Labor wants to see the right penalties imposed on those who do the wrong thing. Indeed, we think that we ought also to increase the penalties for anticompetitive conduct. We went to the last election calling for a new penalty system for anticompetitive conduct based on 30 per cent of the annual sales of the relevant product or service multiplied by the number of years the infringement took place, capped to 10 per cent in annual turnover. The benefit of this raising of penalties would be that we could beef up the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's litigation budget so we could get them to chase down more wrongdoers and ensure that we have fairer markets. We would also amend the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 to give a market studies power to the commission.
The need for the government to act is absolutely urgent. The government needs to press the go button and get on with doing this.
Authorised by Noah Carroll, ALP, Canberra