Supermarkets, fuel in watchdog's sights
UP TO 30 in-depth investigations into cartel conduct and anti-competitive behaviour are under way at the competition regulator.
The names of the companies have not been revealed, but the chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, Rod Sims, is set to outline on Thursday that the ACCC is focusing on "competition and consumer issues arising in highly concentrated sectors, and in particular the supermarkets and fuel sectors".
"Some forms of conduct are so detrimental to consumer welfare and the competitive process that the ACCC will always assess them as a priority, irrespective of which sector of the economy the activity occurs," Mr Sims will say in a speech to the Committee for Economic Development of Australia.
He will also reveal the commission is cracking down on "credence claims" about products, particularly claims about the origin of meat.
"We have already been working on these matters with actions in relation to a number of 'free range' claims, and we have tackled alleged misrepresentations in the labelling of extra virgin olive oil and taken on country [or region] of origin claims from sheepskins to meat."
Not all the investigations will lead to court action.
European consumers have been shocked by revelations some supermarket foods labelled as beef contained horse meat sourced from unknown origins.
Mr Sims confirmed last week the ACCC was investigating Coles and Woolworths. However, he has now watered down expectations of court action, saying the regulator cannot use information from 50 secret conversations, and still has to obtain and analyse information before it can be sure breaches have occurred.
Also on the ACCC agenda for this year is managing electricity privatisation in Queensland and NSW, unfair contract terms, and speeding up merger and acquisition reviews.