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ACL National Projects

Current ACL national compliance projects

Most Complained about Businesses Nationally

This project will aim to identify the most complained about businesses on a national level and, if warranted, to take coordinated action to improve business compliance and reduce the risk of consumer detriment. The objectives of the project will be to facilitate a coordinated response by ACL regulators to the most complained about businesses nationally, to ensure these businesses are compliant with the ACL, to ensure the burden of ongoing compliance is born by the businesses and not ACL regulators and to reduce the number of complaints to ACL regulators.

National Sentinel Pilot Program: Automotive Industry

Project Sentinel is a NSW initiative designed to deliver an operational analytics platform which transforms and integrate multiple sources of data into a single user friendly environment and provide a range of analytic tools to develop understanding and meaning from the data. Project Sentinel seeks to deliver an analytics platform that would greatly improve regulators’ ability to share information and identify consumer issues in the marketplace at a national level. ACL Regulators have agreed to a proof-of-concept trial of the operational analytics platform developed by the NSW Project – this trial, known as the National Sentinel Pilot Program, seeks to assess non-compliance in the automotive industry at the national level. If successful, the ACL Regulators have agreed to consider developing a shared operational analytics capability.

Music Festivals

The purpose of this project is to proactively engage with music festival organisers, ticketing agencies and other relevant bodies with the aim of increasing compliance with consumer laws. Through compliance assistance and education, regulators can work to ensure that those involved in these events – from promoters to attendees – are aware of their obligations and rights.

Peer-to-peer/Sharing Economy

The sharing economy national project was established after a general lack of consumer and trader understanding of their rights and responsibilities under the ACL were identified from various research including a study commissioned by NSW Fair Trading. The project aims to increase the awareness of the ACL and regulators among P2P platforms, and their consumers and traders. Consumers, traders and P2P platforms would then be more confident of their consumer obligations and they would be aware of the appropriate regulators to refer to for consumer-related matters.

Service Delivery Mapping: ACL regulators

The purpose of the project is to create an easily accessible suite of tools so that ACL regulators can call upon, that identifies how ACL regulators manage general enquiries and complaints, and the services they provide.

Previous Projects

Credit Card Chargebacks

Consumer agencies regularly receive complaints about transactions that have not been fulfilled. In instances where the purchase has been completed by way of a credit card purchase, consumers are afforded the capacity to seek a chargeback on their account and recover the funds from the merchant bank. The project assisted ACL regulators to better understand how chargebacks operate with the ultimate goal of improving consumers’ understanding of how to utilise chargebacks to address disputes and obtain appropriate remedies. Further to this the project created a readily accessible suite of tools to help ACL regulators understand the rules and conditions that govern credit card chargebacks.

Travel and Accommodation Industry

In February 2015, a national project to determine the key consumer protection issues in the travel and accommodation industry sector commenced. Key project objectives included determining the effects of the closure of the Travel Compensation Fund (TCF) in June 2014, considering ACL provisions to help define parameters for any future focus that may be required, and identifying any potential systemic non-compliance in the industry.

Real Estate Agent Services

NSW Fair Trading led a national project which involved conducting research to assist ACL regulators in gaining a better understanding of the key regulatory issues for the real estate agency sector at a national level. The project was also an opportunity for regulators to share lessons learned, experiences and best practice models.

Training Providers

This aimed to identify key consumer protection issues relating to training providers and the products and services they provide. Training products and services are used by consumers of all ages for a range of reasons including gaining qualifications, preparing for entry into the workforce, assisting with children’s education and re-training in a different field.

The project delivered education to raise awareness amongst consumers and traders, as well as compliance and enforcement activities with identified non-compliant traders. As part of a series of investigations, including joint investigations with NSW Fair Trading, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (in some cases with the Commonwealth) has to date taken Federal Court action against a number of training providers, brokers and marketers. Consumer regulators across Australia are investigating other training providers and marketers, with further enforcement action expected.

Property Spruikers/Rent to Buy schemes

A project targeting misleading behaviour in relation to property investment spruikers. Property spruikers are property investment promoters — usually not licensed as real estate agents or financial service providers — who run wealth creation seminars, and offer property investment training and materials. The project is examining education, compliance and regulatory strategies aimed at preventing consumer and investor detriment resulting from property spruikers targeting prospective investors with promises of easy and quick wealth creation through property investment and other techniques such as rent-to-buy schemes.

Scams with Focus on Romance Fraud

The purpose of the project is to reduce consumer and business harm from scams and fraudulent conduct through a cooperative approach to education and disruption activity in partnership with organisations in the money remittance industry. The aim of the project is to develop best practice guidelines in consultation with industry to put in place scam awareness messaging, to ensure businesses have adequate scam complaint handling mechanisms and to encourage businesses to actively seek opportunities to detect and prevent scam losses.

Cash back Schemes

This project involves the identification of cash back offers in the marketplace and a review of representations made to consumers about the offers. It includes seeking substantiation from retailers and manufacturers about the processes in place to ensure consumers receive the cash back as promised. The project also includes education to consumers and businesses about their rights and responsibilities under the ACL.

Was/Now Pricing

The project involves the identification of retailers using discounted sale prices, particularly ‘was’ versus ‘now’ pricing as a promotional tool. It involves seeking substantiation of the advertised discounted price against the previous price and includes education to consumers about pricing representations and encouraging compliance within various industry sectors.

Country of Origin Labelling on food and Olive Oil Representations

The project was undertaken to address concerns around the use of country of origin representations on oil and a selected number of food products (in particular those that were labelled as being Australian). Regulators also sampled the quality and grade of oil supplied in Australia in response to concerns that oil imported into Australia and marketed to consumers as extra virgin olive oil could on occasion be lower quality olive oil or out of date. As a result, regulators surveyed 354 olive oil products, 42 fruit cup products, 21 frozen pea products and 182 coffee products were surveyed. Regulators issued 54 substantiation notices were issued to traders and a small number of oil products were chemically tested against voluntary industry standards. This work found little evidence of consumer detriment due to systematic misrepresentations. Regulators will continue to consider food claims as part of their regular compliance activities under the ACL. The project also developed education around the various styles of representations commonly found on goods, for example ‘made in’, ‘made in from local and imported ingredients’, ‘produced in’, ‘product of’ or ‘packed in’. ACCC guidelines on what consumers should look for when buying olive oil and country of origin

Testimonials

The project was undertaken by regulators to detect traders using fake online reviews and testimonials as a promotional tool. Regulators wanted to learn more about the way traders use fake testimonials, which are significantly under-reported given it is hard for consumers to know whether testimonials are true. Regulators reviewed 290 traders in 20 market sectors and issued substantiation notices to 38 traders. Several of those traders agreed to remove unsubstantiated testimonials from their websites. As a result of the project, regulators are now using key indicators to monitor testimonials.

Extended Warranties

This project targeted the conduct of extended warranty providers and retailers offering extended warranties to consumers, focusing on whitegoods, computers and cars. Retailers may be avoiding their consumer guarantee obligations by making out that an extended warranty is the only way of fixing problems with products. Regulators were also concerned about use of high pressure sales tactics, terms and conditions not being properly disclosed and traders being unclear about their ACL obligations. The joint operation examined 141 retailers across Australia.

Consumer Guarantees

Activities to ensure awareness of, and compliance with, the consumer guarantee provisions of the ACL by retailers and suppliers within the telecommunications, whitegoods and electronic goods industries.

Unfair contract terms

A project reviewing standard form contracts used by on-line retailers in order to develop guidance and a communications plan for on-line traders and consumers in relation to the ACL’s unfair contract terms procedures.

Environmental claims

Investigation of claims made by promoters of small scale renewable energy schemes or by suppliers of energy-saving products targeted at the domestic consumer market.

Indigenous consumer protection

Education and compliance action to reduce detriment to indigenous consumers, particularly in regional and remote areas.

Group buying websites

Introduction of a nationally co-ordinated and considered response to issues arising from the group buying industry, such as through promotion of best practice through self regulation, implementation of voluntary codes of conduct, and encouraging compliance with the ACL.

Travelling con men educational campaign

A national response to the issue of travelling con men through an education campaign, encouraging consumers to report their activities, gathering intelligence and co-ordinated enforcement action with other law enforcement agencies.