The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (‘ACCC’) has celebrated the start of the holiday season with another high-profile win, again reminding advertisers of the risks associated with running misleading advertisements. The ACCC has recently taken on large market players such as Reckitt Benckiser, ANZ Bank and Macquarie Bank, which have been ordered to pay sizeable penalties for contraventions of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (‘CCA’) including in relation to consumer law breaches and anti-competitive practices.
With a review of the Australian Consumer Law currently underway, ACCC Chairman Rod Sims has made the regulator’s position quite clear, stating that “the ACCC will continue to advocate for higher penalties for breaches of Australia’s consumer laws to ensure that they act as an effective deterrent and are not simply viewed as a cost of doing business”.
Here is a brief summary of the ACCC’s recent wins:
Nurofen ordered to pay $6million for Specific Pain products
Reckitt Benckiser was found to have engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct by making representations on its website and product packaging that Nurofen Specific Pain products were each formulated to specifically treat a particular type of pain, when this was not the case. The ACCC appealed the initial penalty of $1.7million successfully, with an order of $6million recently handed down by the Federal Court, better reflecting the desired deterrent effect. Justices Jagot, Yates and Bromwich stated in their decision that the objective of this penalty was to “ensure that Reckitt Benckiser and other ‘would-be wrongdoers’ think twice and decide not to act against the strong public interest”.
ACCC wins High Court appeal in Flight Centre price-fixing case
The ACCC brought proceedings against Flight Centre, alleging it engaged in anti-competitive behaviour by attempting to induce three international airlines to enter price-fixing arrangements. After appeals by both parties, the ACCC successfully sought leave to the High Court which determined in favour of ACCC, affirming that Flight Centre was guilty of the alleged anti-competitive conduct. The matter will return to the Full Federal Court for determination of penalty appeal and cross-appeal brought by the parties.
ANZ & Macquarie pay for attempted cartel conduct
Both ANZ Bank and Macquarie Bank, following their own admissions, were found guilty of multiple instances of attempted cartel conduct in their efforts to influence the benchmark rate for the Malaysian ringgit. Accordingly, the Federal Court has imposed penalties of $9 million and $6 million against ANZ and Macquarie respectively. The banks have also been ordered to contribute to the ACCC’s costs.
If you have concerns of misleading or deceptive representations, we recommend any marketing campaigns or advertising be subject to legal clearance. If you require assistance, please do not hesitate to get in touch.