The Turnbull Government has today introduced a Bill into Parliament containing reforms to improve outcomes for Australian consumers across a range of areas.
Schedule 1 of the Treasury Laws Amendment (2018 Measures No. 3) Bill 2018 amends the Australia Consumer Law (ACL) to increase the maximum civil pecuniary penalties and penalties for criminal offences.
The current maximum penalties in the ACL are $1.1 million for a body corporate and $220,000 for a person other than a body corporate. The Bill increases those penalties for body corporates to the greater of $10 million, or three times the value of the benefit obtained from the offence (if this can be determined), or 10 per cent of the annual turnover (if the value of the benefit cannot be determined). For persons other than body corporates, the maximum penalty will increase to $500,000.
The increase to the maximum penalties was a recommendation of the ACL Review. The Review found that the current maximum penalties available in the ACL are insufficient to deter non-compliant conduct that can be highly profitable.
Schedule 2 of the Bill amends the ACL to provide protection, through a safe harbour, for egg producers who comply with the requirements of the Free Range Egg Labelling Information Standard.
This safe harbour will provide certainty to those egg producers who choose to label their eggs as 'free range' that if they have fulfilled the requirements set out in the information standard they will not face prosecution under the misleading or deceptive conduct provisions of the ACL. This will increase confidence in the egg industry, encourage further investment and will give consumers increased confidence that they are getting what they pay for when choosing their eggs.
Finally, Schedule 3 of the Bill amends the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (CCA) to support the Australian Energy Regulator's (AER) wholesale electricity market monitoring powers. This will help ensure that the AER can continue to enforce the energy laws proactively, fairly, and efficiently.