ACCC to ramp up focus on sustainability claims

ACCC sustainability claims
The ACCC has made environmental claims one of its priorities for compliance and enforcement. (Source: Bigstock)

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is putting the spotlight on sustainability claims as one of its priorities for 2023-24.

ACCC Chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb announced the ACCC’s annual compliance and enforcement priorities at a Committee for Economic Development Australia (CEDA) event in Sydney.

Consumer and competition issues in essential services, environmental claims and sustainability, financial services and other critical areas will be in the spotlight.

The ACCC’s focus on environmental claims and sustainability will stretch beyond consumer and fair trading issues. It will include competition law and product safety considerations, Cass-Gottlieb said.

“We’ve established a new internal taskforce focused on sustainability that will build our expertise, inform and coordinate our efforts across the agency,” she said.

“In particular the taskforce will examine and seek to influence a range of issues where environmental and sustainability issues intersect with the application of competition and consumer law, including product safety.”

In a recent internet ‘greenwashing’ sweep of businesses, about 57 per cent were found to be making concerning claims about their environmental credentials.

New laws on unfair contract terms

The introduction of new laws prohibiting unfair contract terms that include a new penalty regime later this year would be an important change for consumers and small business and would also play an important role in the ACCC’s enforcement priorities.

“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.”

Cass-Gottlieb confirmed the ACCC would maintain its enduring compliance and enforcement priorities, which target conduct so detrimental to consumer welfare and the competitive process that the ACCC would always regard them as a priority.

They included conduct impacting First Nations consumers, cartel conduct and anti-competitive conduct more broadly.