The consumer regulator is struggling with digital disruption

Elizabeth Barry 15 March 2017

digital disruption

Fast-moving technologies and anti-competitive behaviour are some of the key challenges.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) chairman Rod Sims has today highlighted the challenges the regulator faces because of "fast-moving disruptive technologies". Addressing the National Consumer Congress in Melbourne, Sims said regulating rogue online traders, scam artists and new retail practices such as subscription traps is difficult because some fall short of the Australian Consumer Law and many are based overseas.

"New technology has increased access to more products, services, and information for consumers but with it come new challenges for consumer advocates and regulators," he said.

The ACCC has indicated it will be moving beyond the traditional areas of consumer guarantees on 2017 and looking at guarantees for more complex products. Currently, guarantees apply to rights for the repair, refund or replacement of faulty goods such as clothing or household appliances.

The ACCC will look at extending these guarantees to products such as motor vehicles and services in industries such as telecommunications and airlines.

The challenges are not particularly surprising given the speed at which industries are being disrupted. With Turnbull's "Ideas Boom", the gate was opened for startups to challenge larger incumbent companies, particularly in the financial space.

Anti-competitive behaviour between large incumbents and smaller tech players has been witnessed, such as in the case of Acorns and CommBank, and new markets have emerged, such as in the interest-free finance space.

Sims said that even after five years as chair of the ACCC, he remains puzzled as to why large companies treat their customers so badly.

"We are often told that companies will only succeed by meeting customer needs. It is clear that some companies seek to deceive their consumers about these needs,” he said.

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