The competition regulator has reported on the first 100 days of the carbon tax, and while businesses are quick to complain about the impact of the dreaded charge, it turns out only 6% of complaints related to the tax.
But the ACCC is still cracking down, with more than 40 formal and informal warnings sent to businesses about inappropriately linking raised prices to the carbon tax – including a surprising number in the refrigeration sector.
“Investigations into the air conditioning and refrigeration repair sector have yielded a number of outcomes,” chairman Rod Sims told the Australian Food and Grocery Council leaders’ forum this morning.
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“We have had one administrative outcome, with a further four anticipated, and one court enforceable undertaking relating to alleged false and misleading representations regarding the carbon levy on the price of refrigerant gas.”
Sims released new figures also showing the average daily carbon complaint figures have dropped from around 60 per day to just 10-15, and recently have been as low as four per day.
More than 40 warnings have been sent to companies walking the line when it comes to linking the carbon tax inappropriately with price increases.
Businesses hit by a warning include a company in Queensland who was found to be increasing charges for faxing documents and inappropriately linking them to the carbon tax.
A New South Wales flying school also raised fees, but the ACCC had concerns over full attribution.
Sims says the majority of inquiries have come from both consumers and small businesses wanting to find more information about the tax and report false claims. More than 40% of complaints have been regarding the energy sector, although other industries have emerged as problem areas too.
“Whilst slowing, the ACCC continues to receive complaints about refrigerant gas price increases. We are working with the refrigerant industry to provide them with guidance to avoid making misleading statements.”
Along with the refrigeration sector and gas providers, Sims says energy retailers are expected to remain the main targets of complaints given the quarterly energy bills will soon be arriving.
“The ACCC has had close engagement with electricity retailers and to date has not found carbon price representations which raise concerns.”
Overall, Sims says, the ACCC’s quick enforcement has helped businesses do the “right thing”.
“The low complaint levels certainly show that most businesses have acted in accordance with the law during the first 100 days of carbon price representations. When they have not, we have contacted them quickly and worked with them to help them comply.”
While there have been a low number of complaints relating to the carbon tax, the first few weeks of the charge were dotted with controversy. The managing director of Brumby’s Bakery resigned after the company sent out correspondence to its franchisees suggesting they should blame price increases on the tax – even before it was introduced.