In his annual address to the CEDA audience, Mr Sims described the 18 compliance and enforcement priorities the ACCC has planned for 2016, in accordance with their annual Compliance and Enforcement Policy (CEP) publication.
The publication, launched to coincide with Mr Sims’ speech, will target protection for vulnerable and disadvantaged consumers, as well as continuing areas of “major focus” for wider consumer protection.
“In the area of competition law, we will continue to take a strong line on cartel conduct, anti-competitive conduct and practices, and where we can, misuse of market power,” Mr Sims said.
“We have around 20 cartel investigations under way at any one time and we expect one or two criminal prosecutions this year and some other important civil proceedings.
“We continue to place priority on conduct and practices that are likely to substantially lessen competition in a market.”
Mr Sims also outlined the ACCC’s pledge to regulate Australia’s monopoly infrastructure through advocacy and market studies.
“In my personal view, the ACCC has not done enough competition advocacy and market studies in the past,” Mr Sims said.
“Promoting competition and pro market reform should not wait for a Hilmer or a Harper review.”
Consumer issues in terms of consumer guarantees, consumer product safety and competition within industries will remain a priority in 2016, he said.
Mr Sims said the ACCC will also continue to target large businesses who fail to protect consumers, prioritising disadvantaged communities.
Among those affected are older Australians, new migrants to Australia and the Indigenous community, he said.
“This is a significant change to our policy recognising that Indigenous consumers, particularly those living in remote areas, continue to face challenges in asserting their consumer rights,” Mr Sims said.
“Unfortunately, Indigenous consumers continue to face some of the most outrageous selling tactics.”
As part of their compliance and enforcement priorities, Mr Sims outlined that the health, medical and agricultural sectors would also be a “primary focus” for investigations, and further built upon from studies implemented in 2015.
“The market studies will strengthen our ability to make decisions on key issues that affect the sector, and will ‘shine a light’ on problems that may require broader responses.”
Mr Sims said in addition to CEP priority areas, the ACCC would aim to “provide greater transparency” in 2016.
“We will seek to improve our explanation of our decisions and set out the factors we considered when deciding to take action,” he said.
“The ACCC’s role is to explain where those boundaries are, both to act as a form of deterrence but also so that the wider community can have faith that a market economy works for them."