The consumer watchdog has revealed its priorities for the year, with dodgy sales practices in the travel sector and the conduct of some caravan manufacturers set to be scrutinised.
Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) chair Rod Sims said at the annual Committee for Economic Development Australia conference on Tuesday that the coronavirus pandemic has led to new problems for consumers.
As international and domestic travel restrictions put the travel industry under pressure, the ACCC has seen an increase in complaints about misrepresentations in advertising and marketing material from businesses in this space.
Sims said the ACCC’s COVID-19 Enforcement Taskforce would “continue to closely monitor forward sales practices by travel businesses” with particular concern for such marketing materials.
The watchdog will also investigate the caravan industry, which grew significantly during 2020 as a result of international travel restrictions.
Sims said the ACCC has received an increase in complaints about caravan manufacturers failing to comply with consumer guarantee obligations.
“In 2021, the ACCC will be looking to improve industry compliance with consumer guarantees across a range of high value goods, particularly motor vehicles and caravans,” Sims said in a statement.
“Despite the pandemic, the ACCC received a high volume of complaints about motor vehicles consumer guarantee issues in 2020.”
Other priorities include an investigation into the pricing and selling practices of essential services, such as electricity, and the lack of transparency in their pricing.
According to the ACCC, the wholesale cost of electricity has dropped by almost 50%. However, electricity providers have failed to pass on those savings to consumers.
The consumer watchdog will also take action against some funeral businesses, following concerns about the use of market power and unconscionable conduct in the sector.
The franchising and agriculture sectors, as well as large digital platforms, will all remain priorities during 2021, Sims said.
The dominance of large platforms such as Google across the digital advertising supply chain has recently been the subject of an ACCC investigation.