ACCC targets the channel in Christmas crackdown

ACCC targets the channel in Christmas crackdown

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has cracked down on manufacturers, distributors and retailers of home electronics and computing goods, successfully taking action against several for resale price maintenance. It has also been investigating claims of misleading advertising.

Home electronics retailer, JB Hi-Fi, is the latest to meet the consumer watchdog's ire for allegedly misleading customers over the discounted price of goods.

The retailer was taken to task over a catalogue released in February, which advertised the sale of new televisions, set-top boxes, DVD recorders and home theatre systems at prices represented to be a significant discount on their recommended retail value.

The ACCC is concerned the company never sold a reasonable quantity of the products at the said recommended retail value in the first place. The regulator alleges the advertising was misleading under the Trade Practices Act.

"Retailers using comparative advertising must ensure the savings claimed are real," ACCC chairman, Graeme Samuels, said.

The action against JB Hi-Fi is the latest in what appears to be a campaign by the consumer watchdog to regulate the electronics and computing industry in the lead-up to Christmas. Several prominent Australian channel players were targeted in the last week.

On Wednesday, the ACCC succeeded in bringing about penalties against the distributor of Topfield set-top boxes, which was accused in October of resale price maintenance.

The Federal Court fined Digital Products Group $238,000, its director, Jai Kemp, $42,000, and sales manager, Mark Dopson, a further $17,500 for their part in inducing a Melbourne-based retailer to not advertise Topfield products below recommended prices set by the distributor.

Just two days earlier the ACCC announced it was taking action against navigation computing distributor, Navman Australia, as well as its former general manager, Christopher Baird, and current sales manager, David King, over the same practice.

Earlier in the week, the ACCC gave local computer manufacturer, Optima, a slap on the wrist for resale price maintenance.

"Retailers should be careful not to drop their guard in the flurry of sales leading up to and following Christmas," Samuels said. "The ACCC will certainly not drop its guard on the issue."

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