Australian Competition and Consumer Commission


THE NEWS WRAP: ACCC blocks Macquarie Generation sale

3:26PM | Tuesday, 4 March

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has blocked a $1.5 billion takeover of New South Wales government-owned power generator Macquarie Generation by AGL, citing market concentration concerns.   “The proposed acquisition would result in the largest source of generation capacity in NSW being owned by one of the three largest retailers in NSW,” ACCC chairman Rod Sims says.   “With this acquisition the three largest retailers in NSW would own a combined share of up to 80% of electricity generation capacity.   “This is likely to raise barriers to entry and expansion for other electricity retailers in NSW and therefore reduce competition.”   Building approvals jump nearly 7% in January   Building approvals have jumped by nearly 7% seasonally adjusted during January, a faster rate than many economists had expected, according to new figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.   Approvals for detached houses were up by 8.3%, while apartments and other dwellings were up 4.6%.   In another piece of good news, the ABS figures also show Australia’s current account deficit shrank by 19% to $10.1 billion during the December quarter, with increasing exports and declining imports.   Facebook looks to purchase drone aircraft maker   Facebook is gearing up for another major takeover, with TechCrunch reporting the company is planning to launch a $60 million takeover of Titan Aerospace.   Titan manufactures solar-powered near-orbital drones that can fly for up to five years continuously, with the social media giant reportedly interested in the aircraft in a bid to bring affordable internet access to 5 billion people worldwide who still lack connectivity.   The project is set to compete against Google’s Project Loon R&D program, which aims to use hot air balloons to provide connectivity to remote areas.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up to 16416.8. The Aussie dollar is up to US89.52 cents.

THE NEWS WRAP: IMF warns central banks against raising interest rates too quickly

1:27PM | Tuesday, 21 January

The International Monetary Fund has warned the world’s central banks against raising interest rates too quickly, pointing out global economic growth was still weak.   “Strengthening global growth does not mean that the global economy is out of the woods (and) countries including the US must not respond to the prospect of rising growth by prematurely withdrawing monetary policy accommodation,” The Australian reports the IMF saying.   The IMF also pointed to “fragile” improvements in southern Europe and imbalances inside China.   Telstra caps mobile phone call costs   Telstra is capping the amount of money many customers pay for mobile phone calls, The Australian Financial Review reports.   It says Telstra is the last of the three big telecommunications companies to make the change.   Telstra now charges a maximum $130 a month for customers on new contracts, regardless of how many calls are made.   “The most customers will pay for excess calls to standard Australian numbers is $70,” a Telstra spokesman said.   ACCC probes beer supply to pubs for anti-competitive conduct   Australia’s competition watchdog is investigating the supply of beer to Australia’s pubs to discover whether brewers are using tactics to lock out rival brands.   The Age reports the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has written to brewers seeking a better “understanding” of the market to assess whether anti-competitive conduct was happening.   ''The ACCC is making some inquiries to better understand the supply conditions within the wholesale draught beer market in Australia, and to understand how certain conduct may be affecting competition,'' the commission said in the letter.   Markets   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 0.27% at 16,414.44 points and the Australian dollar is buying US88.1 cents.

THE NEWS WRAP: US Federal Reserve to wind back stimulus

12:16PM | Wednesday, 18 December

The US Federal Reserve has announced it will begin to scale down its massive stimulus program from next month, the first step towards winding back the program that helped the US recover from recession.   The Fed has spent $US85 billion a month for a year as it sought to keep long-term interest rates in check and stimulate jobs and the economy.   "Today's policy actions reflect the committee's assessment that the economy is continuing to make progress, that it also has much farther to travel before conditions can be judged normal," outgoing Fed chief Ben Bernanke said.   The Fed will reduce its monthly asset purchases by $US10 billion from January, bringing them down to $US75 billion.   Government close to rejecting assistance for SPC Ardmona   The federal government is close to rejecting calls for financial help from food processor SPC Ardmona, amid fears it could set a “dangerous precedent”, The Australian reports.   It says ministers believe the company has itself to blame for cost pressures it faces.   The move comes as the government pledges $100 million to help create jobs for manufacturing workers following GM Holden’s announcement it will stop production of cars in 2017.   Apple to amend consumer guarantees and warranties   Apple has agreed to take action over its consumer guarantees and warranties to avoid being taken to court by Australia’s consumer watchdog.   The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission had been investigating the technology giant over its consumer guarantee policies, the ABC reports.   "The ACCC was concerned that Apple was applying its own warranties and refund policies effectively to the exclusion of the consumer guarantees contained in the Australian Consumer Law," ACCC chairman Rod Sims said.   Apple has acknowledged some of its practices may have contravened Australian Consumer Law (ACL), and is taking a number of compliance measures including retraining staff.   Markets   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 1.9% at 16,172.08 points, while the Australian dollar is down at 88.5 US cents.

Scoopon fined $1 million for misleading businesses and consumers

12:07AM | Wednesday, 18 December

Online group buying site Scoopon has been hit with a $1 million penalty for making false and misleading representations to businesses and consumers.   The Federal Court ruled Scoopon had contravened Australian Consumer Law when it misled consumers as to the price of goods advertised in its deals and their refund rights.   Scoopon also misled businesses by saying there was no cost or risk involved with running a deal with Scoopon and it told one company that 30% of vouchers sold would not be redeemed.   The court has also ordered Scoopon to pay a portion of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s legal costs, to further develop its existing compliance program and ordered an injunction restraining Scoopon from making similar misleading representations for a two year period.   In response to the findings, Scoopon executive general manager Jon Beros told SmartCompany in a statement Scoopon upholds “the highest standards in the industry”.   “As a pioneer of the Australian group buying sector and founding member of the Australian Group Buying Code of Conduct, our leading position has meant Scoopon is expected to uphold the highest standards in the industry,” he says.   “Following discussions with the ACCC, Scoopon has voluntarily accepted orders which include additional measures to improve compliance. Building on measures we've already introduced, Scoopon is re-training our team members, has introduced additional compliance roles and offered to work further with the group buying industry to implement stricter compliance standards.”   Scoopon has been given a community service order to hold an educational seminar on ACL issues for other group buying businesses and members of the Association for Data-driven Marketing and Advertising.   Telsyte senior research manager Sam Yip told SmartCompany because the industry is still developing, the sector has been constantly reforming its processes. “The industry is still quite young, so many of these things which occurred in the past, aren’t necessarily a reflection of what’s happening today,” he says.   Speaking to SmartCompany when the ACCC launched court action against Scoopon in July, Yip said running deals through group buying sites shouldn’t be seen as a simple marketing solution for businesses.   “There are explicit costs around margins that need to be considered and implicit costs about what it means for a brand and for staff and customers,” he says.   “Often it is a lot more complex than advertised.”   The ACCC launched action against Scoopon after receiving “a significant number of complaints” about the group buying industry since it emerged in Australia in 2010.   ACCC chairman Rod Sims said in a statement it acknowledged Scoopon’s cooperation in the investigations which “enabled a more timely outcome to be reached”.   “The ACCC understands that Scoopon has worked to improve its systems and processes which gave rise to this conduct to meet its obligations under the ACL. However this penalty serves as a warning to other businesses in the industry to improve practices or face action from the ACCC,” he says.   “Online traders must understand their obligations are the same as traditional retailers’ and must not mislead customers or other businesses.”   Sims says the ACCC will take further action in this sector to improve compliance and protect small businesses and consumers.   This article first appeared on SmartCompany.

THE NEWS WRAP: Coles and Woolworths close to fuel docket deal with the ACCC

12:29PM | Tuesday, 3 December

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is close to reaching a deal with Coles and Woolworths over fuel docket vouchers, which could place a cap on discounts.   A deal would see the competition regulator continue to allow the retail giants to offer discounts, while preventing the offers spiking to 40 cents off per litre.   It is hoped a deal, which could be announced by Christmas, will take the political heat out of the issue, after independent retail groups called on both sides of politics to outlaw the practice entirely prior to the last election.   Retail sales figures beat forecasts   Australian retail sales beat analysts’ forecasts during the month of October, according to new figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.   The figures show a 0.5% increase for the month, following a rise of 0.9% in September, beating analysts’ forecasts of a 0.4% rise.   The result marks the sixth consecutive month of increases in retail sales, with results up in all states and territories except South Australia.   Dick Smith shares expected to trade strongly after listing   Shares in electronics retailer Dick Smith are expected to trade strongly after listing today.   The mid-cap retailer expected to reach a market capitalisation of $520 million just one year after being sold to private equity firm Anchorage Capital Partners for just $94 million by Woolworths.   “We are opening a fair few stores in coming days,” Dick Smith chief executive Nick Abboud says.   “Eight shops in basically four weeks, it's fairly significant. There wouldn't be many retailers opening eight shops in four weeks and this is where the excitement is for us, and more so for fiscal 2015 because you get a full year [of new stores].”   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down to 15903.6 The Aussie dollar is up to US91.42 cents.

Three reasons why you should not copy T&Cs from another site

9:47AM | Friday, 27 September

Here at Legal123 we think we know a bit about online legals, and we see the same thing often:   You have your idea for your online business start-up site, your website developer is working on it and then you realise you haven’t considered your website legals. Your developer asks you where they are?   In fact, you are not even sure what you need. You look around at other websites and see that they have privacy, terms and disclaimers on their sites. You speak again to your developer who says you should have them and they tell you to ‘just copy them from another site as no one reads them anyway’. So you do.   Why this can be a major mistake for you and your business:   1. The most important protection for you is your contract with your customer   Your terms and conditions should be an important consideration, particularly for an e-commerce website. They are your contract with your customer.   The most important issue is that you are putting yourself and your business at risk with your customers in the absence of good terms and conditions on your site. You are essentially relying on your terms to protect you and your business in the event your customer sues you or reports your business to a regulatory authority.   A court will first look to your website terms to determine your relationship with your customer and the contractual terms you have agreed. If you have copied them from another site, you will have difficulty relying on them to protect you and your business. A customer issue could end up closing down your online business or sending you bankrupt through a court process you did not expect.   2. You are breaching copyright   You are breaching copyright if you copy someone else’s terms. It’s illegal and can get you and your business into a lot of trouble, particularly if they are not related to your business which happens often when, for example, many sites copy US legal terms.   You also wouldn’t want someone to copy your website idea, products or services, so don’t copy someone else’s legal work that they paid for.   3. The ACCC is now issuing penalties to non-compliant websites   Last September, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) decided to randomly start checking e-commerce websites and issuing penalties to non-compliant sites. They found a number of websites that had copied other websites’ terms and conditions. This meant that, in some cases, the terms were either confusing or misleading as they did not pertain to the actual website’s products or services. In other cases, they were general and missing the required Australian Consumer Law requirements.   Since this time, the ACCC has been increasing their review of and enforcement of consumer protection. They are conducting reviews of e-commerce websites and issuing fines to websites that do not comply with terms required and if you do not have terms related to your site.   This is becoming more of a focus for regulators who are trying to protect consumers, particularly with respect to online transactions. Consumers face increasing risks when shopping online rather than in a shop front. Security, jurisdiction, information disclosure and misinformation, redress and privacy are just a few of the issues that regulators try to help consumers avoid.   In addition, there is a high level of awareness of consumer protection laws in Australia. While most consumers are aware of the existence of consumer protection laws (90% of consumers and 98% of businesses according to an Australian Government Consumer survey), only a small proportion can name the existing laws. However, this does mean that there is a higher likelihood that consumers will know they have rights they can complain about and will be more likely to do so.   Think twice about copying   It’s a risk to your reputation and your business which is not worth taking. There are online websites that offer terms and conditions at reasonable prices so it’s not worth risking potential legal action which could ruin your business.

Forty-somethings are on tablets, teens use smartphones – but in very different ways

9:29AM | Tuesday, 17 September

Australians in their 40s are more likely to buy products while browsing on tablets, while consumers who make their purchases on smartphones are likely to be either teenagers or in their 20s, according to the latest Sensis e-Business report.   The information is lucrative for businesses, who should be designing their different website versions with this in mind, the report warns.   Tablet users are more likely to be looking for information on products and services along with suppliers of goods and services, at 66% and 63% respectively, while smartphone users are focused on maps, weather updates and social networking sites.   But as previous reports have found, 48% of tablet users actually order products, compared to just 36% of smartphone users.   Report author Christena Singh told SmartCompany this morning businesses should be paying attention to these different demographics and include that knowledge in their design briefs.   “For tablet users, they’re more likely to be employed full-time, they have higher incomes and what they are doing is predominantly business-related.   “There are a lot more people using tablet devices to search for products and services.”   Half of Australians connected to the internet are using tablets, the survey found, up from 34% in 2012.   Reflecting the current increase in the importance of online reviews, the report also found 36% of businesses have featured independent reviews of products or customer reviews on their websites, up by 27% in 2012.   And 76% of businesses now feature pictures of products, up from 72% last year, while 40% include pricing information, up from 37% in 2012.   The increase in companies featuring product reviews reflects the ongoing discussion of their relevance and importance – late last year the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said it would be cracking down on fake reviews.   Overall, businesses are adapting to the internet more. The survey found the number of SMEs using internet marketing increased to 45% in the past year, up from 38% last year, while 29% are advertising on social networks, compared to just 22% last year.   More businesses are also using search engine optimisation and paid search engine marketing.   “But the biggest increase has been in online testimonials – that’s where the biggest growth is. People want to put more information on their websites now.”   This story first appeared on SmartCompany.

How’s $US400 million takeover offer compares with other recent tech deals

9:27PM | Wednesday, 11 September’s $US400 million takeover offer from Japanese recruitment company Recruit Co has attracted plenty of attention.   It’s a hefty chunk of money for a company that grew out of chief executive Matt Barrie’s garage.   If the $US400 million offer for the global online outsourcing platform is accepted, it’s likely to be one of the biggest technology company deals done in Australia this year.   Here are some of the top technology deals in Australia in the past 12 months whose dollar value has been reported, from data compiled by Charles Lindop of KTM Capital:   1. M2 Telecommunications and Dodo Australia, Eftel   In March this year M2 Telecommunications bought phone and internet provider Dodo Australia and telecommunications infrastructure company Eftel for $248 million. M2 said in a statement at the time Dodo and Eftel were highly complementary to its “sizeable” consumer division. “The acquisitions are an excellent complement to our consumer division and combined, our business possesses an excellent capability to grow our share of both the consumer and small to medium business market,” M2 chief executive Geoff Horth said.   2. Corporation Service Company and Melbourne IT   Melbourne IT sold its Digital Brand Services division to US-based Corporation Service Company for $152.5 million in March. DBS provides online brand protection and consultancy services to global organisations. “While this was not a business that we had specifically earmarked for sale, given the value creation provided by the transaction, this was an opportunity which could not be ignored,” Melbourne IT chief executive Theo Hnarakis said in a statement.   3. William Hill and   UK betting giant William Hill took a punt on bookmaker Tom Waterhouse’s online business last month in a deal that could be worth up to $104 million. Under the deal, William Hill paid $34 million up front, and a potential further $70 million if certain earnings targets are met. “International expansion is a key part of William Hill’s growth strategy and making Australia our second home is our priority,” William Hill chief executive Ralph Topping said in a statement.   4. iiNet and Adam Internet   Internet provider iiNet offered to buy South Australia-based Adam Internet for $60 million in August. Telstra had tried to buy Adam but was thwarted by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. “We believe that this transaction provides real benefit to Adam Internet’s customers and staff as it aligns them with iiNet, Australia’s leading ISP in customer service,” Adam’s chief executive Greg Hicks said.   5. Webjet and Zuji   Travel booking website Webjet snapped up fellow online travel agency Zuji for $25 million in December last year. Webjet managing director John Guscic told SmartCompany the deal represented a unique opportunity to substantially expand Webjet's marketing footprint, particularly in Asia. “We've known Zuji since its inception and we know they’ve built out a very attractive business in Asia and we have a desire to expand into the Asian markets and Zuji has given us the platform to achieve that,” he said.   6. SMS Management & Technology and Indicium   In July SMS Management & Technology bought IT infrastructure and managed services company Indicium for $22 million. SMS CEO Tom Stianos said in a statement at the time: “The acquisition of Indicium supports our growing Managed Services and Infrastructure Consulting capability, and meets our strategic imperative to increase our annuity revenue. This is a high growth segment of the market and Indicium will accelerate SMS’ offer of managed services in the cloud market.”   7. Woolworths and Quantium   The supermarket giant took a 50% stake in Quantium, Australia’s leading data consultancy, for a reported $20 million in May. Quantium said in a statement it would provide a “wide range of data, analytical, media and software services to Woolworths as well as help deliver customer insights to Woolworths’ suppliers”.   And where would the deal rank among deals in the world? Pretty highly according to data compiled by Australian investment firm Right Click Capital.   While it’s nowhere near the $US130 billion deal Verizon Communications has made to buy Vodafone’s 45% of Verizon Wireless this month, or Microsoft’s $US7.2 billion takeover of Nokia, it’s not far off the €360 million ($US477 million) paid by French payment solutions provider Ingenico for online payment provider Ogone in January.

THE NEWS WRAP: Seven West announces new CEO as KKR sells its stock

5:15PM | Tuesday, 21 May

Kerry Stokes’ Seven West Media has announced Tim Worner will replace Don Voelte as its chief executive, while private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts has announced it is selling its 12% stake in the media giant.   “When I asked Don [Voelte] to accept the responsibility [of chief executive], it was on the basis that he would recommend when he thought he had delivered what he could deliver to the team, and we've arrived at that point,” Stokes said.   “Our decision to sell our shareholding is based on a broad range of parameters on which we based our initial investment and how we sought returns for our investors. We know Seven West Media is a great company; its future is strong and we know it has a well-credentialed board and management,” said KKR local head Justin Reizes.   Apple defends tax minimisation strategies   Apple chief executive Tim Cook has denied the tech giant uses offshore holding companies in Ireland and the Caribbean to minimise the amount of tax it pays in the United States to a US Senate hearing.   “It is completely outrageous that Apple has not only dodged full payment of US taxes, but it has managed to evade paying taxes around the world through its convoluted and pernicious strategies,” Republican Senator John McCain.   “The way I look at it is that Apple pays 30.5 per cent of its profits in taxes in the United States… We do have a low tax rate outside the United States but this tax rate is for products we sell outside the United States,” Cook said.   “We don't depend on tax gimmicks. We don't move intellectual property offshore and use it to sell our products back to the United States to avoid taxes... We don't stash money on some Caribbean island.”   Door-to-door sales tactics cost AGL nearly $1.5 million   A lawsuit by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission in the Federal Court in Melbourne has resulted in utility giant AGL being fined $1.48 million fine in Victoria and a further $70,000 in South Australia over its door-to-door sales tactics.   The lawsuit was largely the result of a CPM Australia contractor who sold gas and electricity for the firm in Coburg making false statements to customers about prices while claiming he was not selling anything.   AGL has since stopped using doorknocking as a sales tactic, describing it as a “risky sales technique”.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 0.35% to 15,388.27. The Aussie dollar is steady at US98.06 cents.

Google wins High Court case against ACCC over online ads

3:58AM | Friday, 15 March

The High Court has handed down a decision in the ongoing case between Google and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, saying the search engine giant is not responsible for displaying misleading ads made by a third party.

THE NEWS WRAP: Nokia boss defends Windows Phone 8

3:00AM | Friday, 15 March

Nokia chief executive Stephen Elop has defended his company’s controversial decision to adopt Windows Phone 8 over Android or an internally developed alternative.

Complaints about franchises rise as ACCC looks to crack down

1:08AM | Thursday, 31 January

Complaints to the consumer watchdog about franchises have increased as the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission increases its audits.

Start-ups urged to speak out over franchise code review

3:12AM | Monday, 11 March

The head of the federal government’s review of the franchising code of conduct says while he comes to the job with no pre-conceived ideas for what should change, topics such as bargaining in good faith, disclosure rules and mediation are all priorities for review.

Cotton On fined over unsafe kids' clothes: Here are four more of their controversies

3:23AM | Monday, 11 March

Cotton On is in trouble with the authorities yet again, with the retailer now fined a massive $1 million for selling children's sleepwear that was deemed so flammable it shouldn't have even been supplied.

THE NEWS WRAP: CBA to increase stake in Aussie Home Loans

12:24PM | Tuesday, 18 December

“Aussie” John Symond has netted tens of millions of dollars by selling a bigger stake of his Aussie Home Loans business to the Commonwealth Bank.

ACCC to authorise new code for casual mall licensing

3:25AM | Monday, 11 March

The competition watchdog is likely to authorise a new voluntary code of practice for casual mall licensing, compiled by the Shopping Centre Council of Australia, which could affect start-ups.

ACCC flags new year crackdown on fake product reviews

3:35AM | Monday, 11 March

Businesses have been put on notice after the competition watchdog warned it will be cracking down on fake product reviews and online voucher rip-offs in the new year.

THE NEWS WRAP: Google chairman dismisses tax avoidance critics

3:38AM | Monday, 11 March

Google chairman and start-up investor Eric Schmidt has brushed off criticism of the search giant’s tax avoidance, saying “It’s called capitalism.”

THE NEWS WRAP: RBA tipped to provide a pre-Christmas interest rate cut

3:04AM | Monday, 11 March

The Reserve Bank of Australia has been widely tipped by economists to provide a pre-Christmas interest rate cut today, amid continued concerns about the strength of the economy.

THE NEWS WRAP: Retailers frazzled by Click Frenzy site crash

3:37AM | Monday, 11 March

Click Frenzy, Australia’s first online mass discounting event, has seen a surge in early consumer interest, with the site crashing shortly after its launch last night.