The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has laid out its
priorities for 2018, vowing to make use of new powers and resources as it
targets the car, energy and broadband industries.
Chair Rod Sims revealed the competition watchdog's agenda at the Committee
for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) forum today before guests at
the Four Seasons Hotel in Sydney.
He was quick to address the increasing cost-of-living pressures facing
Australian households in his opening remarks.
"As we all know, wages growth has been modest since the global financial
crisis while prices, especially of essential services such as electricity
and gas, have risen significantly.
"The financial pressure on many households is significant," he says.
Much of the regulator's 2018 priorities builds upon work it started last
Rising electricity and gas bills
The ACCC was tasked with operating inquiries into complex electricity and
gas markets in 2017. The inquiries were ordered by government after power prices
shot up – by as much as 20% in some states.
"Armed with the clear findings on the causes of the problem, the ACCC will
now focus on making recommendations that will improve electricity
affordability across the National Electricity Market," says Sims.
The recommendations will be presented in a report by June 2018.
The new car market
The car industry's erosive approach to consumer rights is high on the
watchdog's list, after an 18-month review found manufacturers actively
prevent new car owners from receiving a replacement vehicle or a refund.
"We will give effect to our recommendations from the [New Car Retailing
Industry] report about greater guidance and will continue to take action
against traders where their approach is inconsistent with the law," says
"We will also seek to progress all the other recommendations, particularly
in relation to the information given to independent repairers."
The report found car manufacturers gouge drivers on repair and servicing by
charging an average mark-up of 64%.
Sims made a point to independently address the recall of Takata airbags,
which has widened to affect more cars since CHOICE's original Takata investigation in July 2017.
"It is estimated that worldwide around 100 million cars are affected by the
defective Takata airbags and around 3.6 million are in Australia.
"Further, we estimate there are around 25,000 cars on Australian roads
which still contain the most dangerous types of faulty airbags, called
Alpha airbags have a near 1-in-2 chance of rupturing when they
Sims says a dedicated team has been established to resolve the "recall as
quickly as possible", but he did not reveal if the recall will be made mandatory, as per the ACCC's official recommendation.
The National Broadband Network
The NBN has become "one of the ACCC's most prominent issues in the past two
Last year alone the ACCC approved redress programs to 58,000 Telstra, Optus
and TPG customers, and commenced legal proceedings against Optus.
Further "interventions" to take place this year were teased, while Sims
says the watchdog will release findings from its Measuring Broadband
Australia program in the coming weeks.
The program ranks broadband providers according to the real-world data
collected from as many as 8000 volunteers.
Large traders dodging or misrepresenting consumer rights continue to be an ACCC focus, says Sims.
"This is a perennial issue for the ACCC, but it seems a case of two steps
forward and one back each time we prioritise it."