Demonstrating its quick adoption of the new powers made available under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL), the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has issued more than 50 infringement notices during the past 12 months.
The infringements have netted the ACCC over $3.6 million in penalties from April last year, with payment of fines totalling more than $300,000.
The good news for consumers is that the courts have been willing to order the penalties available under the ACL, despite the laws being in place for such a short time.
“Until a year ago the ACCC's ability to penalise a great deal of dishonest conduct amounted to not much more than a slap on the wrist,” ACCC chairman, Graeme Samuel, said.
“Now the punishments can better match the crime and we can respond in a more timely way.”
Following the introduction of the new powers, penalties of up to $1.1 million for corporations and $220,000 for individuals have become available under the ACL in cases where court action has been necessary.
Less serious offences under the ACL such as infringements notices have attracted penalties of $6,600 for corporations and $1,320 for individuals.
SingTel Optus had the distinction of being hit with 27 notices totalling $178,200 for seemingly promoting false and misleading information in their mobile phone plans.
In November ACCC brought Optus into court for its 'misleading' supersonic advertising campaigns.
Two overseas companies, Yellow Page Marketing BV and Yellow Publishing Limited, have been hit with the highest penalty of $2.7 million after sending misleading faxes and invoices to businesses in an effort to get them to subscribe to their online business directories.