Financial services a key focus for ACCC this year

Unfair contract terms, scams, and how banks set interest rates for deposit products among the issues

Financial services a key focus for ACCC this year


By Mina Martin

Ensuring that all Australians get the benefit of competition in the financial services sector will be among the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s compliance and enforcement priorities during 2023-24.

ACCC Chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb (pictured above) said one issue that will play a crucial role in ACCC’s enforcement priorities is the introduction of new laws prohibiting unfair contract terms, including a new penalty regime later this year.

“Businesses need to understand their responsibilities under these new laws, or they could find themselves subject to severe penalties,” Cass-Gottlieb said. “We will be working to ensure that consumers and small businesses, including franchisees, enjoy the full benefit of these strengthened laws.”

ACCC also has its eyes on scams, which continued to cause tremendous personal and financial damage to consumers and the Australian economy.

“Our Scamwatch service will continue to support government agencies and industry participants in the disruption of scams,” Cass-Gottlieb said. “We are also lending our expertise and support to prepare the establishment of the government’s National Anti-Scams Centre.”

As part of ACCC’s focus on financial services, the commission has also commenced its inquiry into retail deposit markets, looking at how banks set interest rates for deposit products.

Other key issues that ACCC will focus on include cost-of-living pressures, the price of essential services including energy and telecommunications, the integrity of environmental and sustainability claims, consumer, and fair-trading harms from manipulative marketing practices in the digital economy and the always high risk to markets, business rivals, and consumers from anti-competitive conduct, Cass-Gottlieb said.

The ACCC chair also confirmed the commission’s commitment to maintain its enduring compliance and enforcement priorities which target conduct, to protect consumer welfare and the competitive process, including those that impact First Nations consumers, cartel conduct, and anti-competitive conduct more broadly.

“Our focus on issues impacting First Nations consumers has now become integral to the larger remit of the ACCC’s work as we identify the disproportionate impact of conduct such as scams and misleading advertising and sales practices on their communities,” Cass-Gottlieb said.

“Our inquiries into the insurance sector, childcare, and mobile regional infrastructure allow us to look at the challenges faced by First Nations people in accessing and acquiring key services.”

The ACCC will announce its annual product safety priorities at the National Consumer Congress later in the year.

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