The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) announced its 2023-24 Compliance and Enforcement Priorities this week.1 The priorities are weighted towards protecting consumers in a year characterised by inflationary pressures, particularly with respect to essential services, the "integrity" of environmental claims and "manipulative" practices in the digital economy. The ACCC's enduring focus on cartels was highlighted, in addition to a new focus on exclusivity arrangements, particularly for businesses in a position of market power.
2023-24 Compliance and Enforcement Priorities
The priorities highlight how the ACCC's proactive commitment to consumer protection and enhancing competitive markets is informed by the current key issues facing the Australian economy, such as cost of living pressures and the price of essential services including energy and telecommunications. The integrity of environmental and sustainability claims, manipulative marketing practices in the digital economy and the enduring risk posed by anti-competitive conduct will continue to be a key focus of the ACCC.
The broad mandate of the ACCC2 and the vast scope of work currently undertaken by the regulator was highlighted in the 2023-24 Priorities, noting the ACCC's responsibilities in enforcing the emergency wholesale gas price cap, its role in sectoral inquiries3 and highlighting the constantly shifting legislative landscape, with an increase in penalties and a new prohibition on unfair contract terms. The ACCC will also continue its focus on the emerging issue of greenwashing and sustainability claims (extending its review to include competition issues), anticompetitive conduct in supply chains and an increased focus on exclusive arrangements by firms with market power.
Facilitating this focus is the ACCC's "proactive" approach to enforcement including conducting screens of data to identify sectors with likely cartels, analysing markets to identify those with high risk factors which may result in anti-competitive conduct and its previously announced internet sweeps for misleading environmental claims and marketing by influencers.
While the announced priorities heavily emphasise consumer protections issues, we anticipate that the ACCC will nonetheless continue to be very active in cartel enforcement including through the use of its criminal powers.
We also anticipate that the ACCC will continue its push for further law reform in respect of its proposed unfair trading practices prohibition and amendments to its merger review process.
Compliance and Enforcement Priorities for 2023-24
The Compliance and Enforcement Priorities for 2023-24 are:
1 CEDA - Committee for Economic Development of Australia, 7 March 2023, Ms Gina Cass-Gottlieb, Chair, spoke at the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA), Tuesday 7 March 2023 on the ACCC ‘2023-24 Compliance and Enforcement Priorities' - CEDA Speech | ACCC
2 As discussed in our recent article on The mandate of the ACCC – a snapshot of the current state of play in Australia | White & Case LLP (whitecase.com)
3 Including the ACCC's ongoing inquiries into digital markets and its new retail deposits market inquiry.
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