The Australian Consumer Law (ACL) increased the power of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to investigate and enforce the law against businesses who fail to comply with consumer protection laws.
Commonly, the ACCC enforces the ACL through infringement notices. The ACCC have also conducted regulatory monitoring initiatives to target online websites. The monitoring action is completed to determine if any consumer law violations exist, including false claims or the failure to represent consumer guarantees. This article outlines the issues you need to consider to respond to an ACCC infringement notice.
Introduction of the Infringement Notice
Previously, an informal letter was the first step to address businesses who were not abiding by the Trade Practices Act (now the Australian Consumer Law). Infringement notices and on-the-spot fines are now more common, allowing for the faster resolution of matters and greater consumer protection. A few of the areas that the infringement notice can address include:
- Unconscionable conduct,
- Unfair practices,
- Failure to abide by consumer guarantees,
- Requirements for proofs of transactions, and
- Itemised bills.
Although the ACL allows the ACCC to easily issue an infringement notice, businesses that receive the notice usually have had previous contact with the Commission. The ACCC in most instances contacts the business to outline their Compliance and Enforcement Policy in an attempt to rectify any breaches of the ACL. If the business has not taken any action, then the next step is an infringement notice. It will outline the nature of the breach and any penalties such as monetary fines. There is a compliance period, usually 28 days, which provides the business owner with time to pay the infringement notice. There are certain circumstances when an extension to pay will be granted. However, the business first needs to inform the ACCC that the infringement notice will not be paid in the first 28 days.
Withdrawing an Infringement Notice
If you receive an infringement notice, you do have the opportunity to request a withdrawal. This can be lodged if you believe that the allegations made by the ACCC are incorrect, or if there is additional material that needs to be considered. You will need to make the request for the withdrawal before payment is due. The documentation you provide will need to counter the ACCC’s allegations. It is best practice that you make the request within two weeks of receiving the infringement notice as the ACCC must decide whether or not to withdraw before the payment due date.
The Commission can issue an infringement notice to businesses that do not comply with the Australian Consumer Law provisions. If you have received a notice or have been in contact with the ACCC regarding compliance with the ACL, speak to LegalVision’s consumer lawyers.
Questions? Get in touch on 1300 544 755.