The competition watchdog says it has received 630 complaints and enquiries about the carbon tax, but insists the number of complaints about small businesses has “generally been low”.
According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, the highest category of complaints received has been about claims made by energy retailers.
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More than 250 consumers and businesses have reported concerns or asked questions about how the carbon price will affect their electricity and gas bills.
Concerns have also been raised as to whether the price increases communicated by energy retailers are appropriate.
However, the ACCC is quick to point out the number of carbon-related complaints and enquiries received so far is not a large proportion of the total number of complaints (8,350) in that period.
Even so, ACCC chairman Rod Sims said the watchdog will continue to work with businesses to ensure consumers are not duped into accepting a price increase they may otherwise question.
“The ACCC does not have a formal price monitoring role and is not responsible for calculating what the carbon price will be for business,” Sims stressed in a statement.
“[However,] we are reviewing the claims made to ensure that they are not misleading or deceptive, including those made by energy retailers.”
Sims said the ACCC is yet to identify any widespread issues and – where there have been concerns – it has worked with businesses to address them promptly.
“Overall, the number of complaints we have received about small businesses and small retailers has generally been low,” he said.
“However when any business attributes a price increase to the carbon price, they must not mislead consumers.”
“A business that makes a good faith, reasonable approach to calculating the carbon price for their business has nothing to fear from the ACCC.”
After energy, the sectors that have garnered the most complaints and enquiries are landfill, building and construction, and refrigerant gases – all of which may be directly affected by the carbon price in some way.
The ACCC said there may be some confusion arising from reports about the variety of cost pressures that impact on businesses and why prices may rise.
For example, a price may increase partly due to the carbon price and partly due to other, unrelated factors.
What might look like a carbon price representation at first glance often turns out to be something different. Consumers are therefore urged to shop around and ask questions.
Meanwhile, the ACCC said businesses have rights when dealing with their suppliers and the same rules – to not mislead in relation to the carbon price – apply to suppliers.
The ACCC has published a series of guides, including one on dealing with suppliers.