ACCC Issues Caution to Supermarkets Regarding Discount Promises

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is actively assessing the possibility of filing a lawsuit against a major supermarket chain for violating consumer laws. This comes amidst the Labor Party’s efforts to ensure fair treatment of consumers and farmers by Coles and Woolworths.

Gina Cass-Gottlieb, the chair of the ACCC, indicated that litigation might occur within the next year. She emphasised the commission’s readiness to pursue legal action against large companies and their key executives if they engage in misconduct towards consumers.

Amidst concerns about the rising cost of living, the Labor government recently initiated a review of industry codes, urging supermarkets to reflect lower wholesale costs at the point of sale. The ACCC, with its limited authority to address price-gouging allegations, is investigating deceptive pricing practices where supermarkets promote discounts but manipulate prices beforehand.

The ACCC focuses on other high-profile cases, including one against Qantas over misleading ticket sales for cancelled flights. Further legal actions against Qantas are possible, and upcoming court decisions could significantly impact the airline’s new leadership.

Another significant case involves ANZ’s proposed $4.9 billion acquisition of Suncorp. The Australian Competition Tribunal will soon decide whether the ACCC was correct in blocking this merger due to potential competition reduction in lending markets. This decision will have substantial implications for ANZ and Suncorp leadership, as well as the ACCC’s future role in overseeing mergers.

Although not involved in the ANZ-Suncorp case due to conflict reasons, Ms Cass-Gottlieb defended the ACCC’s actions and expressed confidence in their processes.

Supermarkets are under increased scrutiny due to the cost-of-living crisis. Labour, responding to this situation, has appointed economist Craig Emerson to review the Food and Grocery Industry Code of Conduct and is considering stricter regulatory measures.

While the ACCC lacks price-monitoring authority in most areas, it does have such powers in the gas and airline ticketing sectors. Upcoming reports from the ACCC will shed light on these industries, particularly regarding compliance with the gas price cap and the behaviour of gas retailers.
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