Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer
14 September 2010 - 5 March 2012
13 July 2011
SUBJECTS: New Funding for the ACCC; Consumer Protection; Carbon Pricing
We're going to chat to David Bradbury, he's the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer and the reason we're speaking to David is because the Government's announced a new 20 person ACCC flying squad that will be given the power to track down and punish companies which try to rort the carbon tax, which try to increase their prices and blame it on the carbon tax. David joins us now, welcome David.
Hi Peter, how are you?
I'm well thanks David. David you obviously believe this is going to occur otherwise you wouldn't have implemented the 20 person flying squad, will that be enough do you think for those companies trying to take advantage of the carbon tax from July 1 next year?
Yeah, we believe so. I think the first point to make is that we think it will be a small proportion of business that will be involved here. We do expect that the overwhelming majority of businesses will conduct themselves properly. They'll make sure and we've always said that there will be modest price increases under the carbon price, and we expect businesses will pass on those costs. That's why we're providing household assistance to ensure that households are no worse off. But in terms of whether or not there are sufficient resources here, we've had a look at the scale of the exercise that was involved when the GST was introduced, and we've certainly assessed resourcing allocations based upon that, and we think that when you consider the scale of the job that's involved here, which will be a smaller job in comparison to the GST as it was a much bigger form in this regard, then we believe that the resources provided will be sufficient and that's certainly the advice that we've received from the ACCC.
So David, how are you going to find out about these people? Are you going to ask the punters who use these services and pay for these goods, are you going to ask them to contact the ACCC if they've noticed that prices have increased markedly after July 2012?
Absolutely. Not just after the introduction of the carbon price. It may well be the case and we've already seen one or two examples where individuals have reported that businesses have increased already and when they've asked why, they've been told it's because of the carbon price. So, clearly we don't even have the scheme legislated at this point.
So people are starting to do that already. 9690 0693, do you think that what the Government's implementing here will control those people trying to take advantage of the implementation of the carbon tax and increase prices for no reason? 9690 0693. David if you go away, and as you said you talked about your GST experience, at that time those that were rorting the GST there were fines and penalties imposed. For those today, if you're caught today and found guilty of gouging your prices on the back of the carbon tax implementation, what sort of penalty could be imposed?
Well from 1 January this year we introduced a new Australian Consumer Law. Apart from being the first set of national consumer laws that we've had in place, we introduced some very tough penalties. If we take the offence of making a false or misleading representation which is typically the offence people would be committing here, then the ACCC can seek penalties of up to $1.1 million per contravention. Just to show that the courts are taking this very seriously, under the new laws that we introduced at the start of the year, we had a case where just a few weeks ago, Optus were the subject of these proceedings, and as a result of that they had to pay somewhere in the order of $5 million plus. That was for several contraventions. We're talking about the potential of multi-million dollar fines where companies are involved in these sorts of activities.
Alright David we appreciate you taking the time to talk to us today.
Thanks Peter, good to talk.