TIME TO GIVE THE COMPETITION WATCHDOG BIGGER TEETH
The Coalition should take Labor’s advice immediately and give the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) the powers it needs to get tough on rip-offs.
This week both Mr Turnbull and Mr Joyce have unwittingly demonstrated just how limited the capacity of the ACCC is to investigate and punish companies that gouge, cheat and harm Australians.
First, Mr Turnbull promised to call Rod Sims, the Chairman of the ACCC, to express his displeasure about petrol prices, and…that’s it.
Meanwhile Mr Joyce wants the ACCC to inquire into milk prices. But if the government had listened to Labor and given the ACCC a strong, independent market studies function it could be investigating issues in the dairy sector now, rather than in three months’ time.
The fact is, both Mr Turnbull and Mr Joyce waited until these problems got public attention before speaking about them. But unlike Labor, the Coalition won’t permanently strengthen the hand of the ACCC.
This government has watched fuel price spikes, milk price plunges and painkiller porkies yet they’ve done nothing. They’ve fiddled while Thermomixes burned. Just what will it take to get the government to act?
In contrast to the government, Labor will:
- Amend the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 to give a market studies function to the ACCC to explore public interest issues such as pricing discrepancies and increased market concentration (as the Harper Review recommended).
- Increase civil penalties under the Australian Consumer Law from a maximum of $1.1 million to $10 million, bringing penalties in-line with the competition provisions of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010.
- Use some of the revenues from increased penalties to increase the ACCC’s litigation budget from its current level of $24.5 million to a maximum of twice that level ($49 million).
Without significant penalties or strong powers to investigate matters as they arise, the ACCC’s power to protect Australians is needlessly restrained.
There’s never been a better time for government to get off its hands.
SUNDAY, 28 AUGUST 2016