Five things you should remember about ACCC regulations

Kate Jones

Every small business owner, no matter which industry, needs to know about the regulations set by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. The ACCC is responsible for governing competition and fair trade.

Not only does it defend the rights of consumers, but it also protects small business owners. To operate lawfully and to ensure product safety, it’s essential to be across ACCC requirements.

Here are five ACCC facts to get you started.

Advertise truthfully

The Competition and Consumer Act prohibits false or misleading statements in business, including promotional material, says Ursula Hogben, co-founder and general counsel at LegalVision ILP.  

“This includes making claims about a product’s quality, characteristics, price or location of manufacture,” she says.

“There is a special exception for wildly exaggerated claims, called puffery. These are advertising statements where it is obvious that a reasonable person would not take it seriously, for example, ‘We make the best pizza south of Italy.’”

If you display more than one price for a product, whether on the shelf or in a catalogue, you must supply the product at the lowest price displayed.

Make sure the price is right

Trading rule 101 – your prices must be displayed clearly and accurately.  The price advertised must be the total price of the product, including tax and any other fees or costs, says Sarah Bartholomeusz, chief executive of You Legal.

“If you display more than one price for a product, whether on the shelf or in a catalogue, you must supply the product at the lowest price displayed,” she says.

No anti-competitive arrangements

The ACCC tries to stamp out anti-competitive deals that rip off consumers.

“If a business tries to control a specific market to the detriment of competitors, or if a supplier tries to get a business to set a minimum price for the sale of products, then they are likely to be breaching the Act,” Hogben says.

In 2010, the ACCC took legal action against Telstra for locking broadband competitors out of its telephone exchanges. The telco was fined more than $18.5 million for anti-competitive behaviour.

Don’t get heavy on debt collection

Chasing unpaid debts is part and parcel of being a small business owner. It’s important to know you must always treat debtors with respect and courtesy, and never harass, coerce or mislead them, Bartholomeusz says. 

Sell safe products

It’s vital for businesses to ensure their products comply with Australian safety standards. If you become aware of one of your products not complying or causing injury or illness to a customer, Hogben says you must notify the ACCC within two days.

Kate Jones

Kate Jones writes for the business and money sections of The Age and Sydney Morning Herald. She also writes for The New Daily, TAC, RMIT and is a news writing tutor at Monash University.

Image: Moyan Brenn, Flickr Creative Commons license