The allegations that Medibank Private Limited deliberately deceived customers is just more evidence of the need to strengthen the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC).
It is also is a stark reminder of the danger to patients of the Turnbull Government’s plan to privatise Medicare.
The allegations only came to light after the ACCC took the company to court for unconscionable conduct.
If the Turnbull Government is re-elected, consumers will be left out in the cold wondering how many other allegations will go unchecked.
When deeply concerning allegations of companies misleading consumers are made –particularly in relation to their health – consumers need the assurance that the consumer watchdog has the resources to undertake often complex and lengthy litigation, backed up by tough penalties if such allegations are proven.
Currently, the ACCC gets 10,000 complaints a quarter but is only able to take up 60 of those.
Increasing the ACCC’s litigation budget responds to concerns that the Commission and independent experts have made about their constrained ability to pursue consumer scammers where they see them.
ACCC chairman Rod Sims has said the recent $1.7 million fine initially handed down by the Federal Court to Nurofen for contravening Australian Consumer Law “does not act as an adequate deterrent and might be viewed as simply a cost of doing business”.
The case for a well-resourced consumer watchdog is clear.
The Turnbull Government has made no commitment – nada – to strengthening the Australian Competition Consumer Commission.
This week, Labor unveiled a suit of policies to give the ACCC more teeth, including:
- Raising Australian Consumer Law penalties from $1.1 million to $10 million.
- Doubling the ACCC litigation budget.
- Giving the ACCC an independent market studies power.
- Adopting the EU calculation of penalties for criminal conduct.
Only Labor is committed to a positive policy agenda that works for all Australians.
Only Labor can be trusted to protect consumers and protect Medicare.
For more information about Labor’s plan to deter and punish anti-competitive and anti-consumer conduct, please visit: http://www.100positivepolicies.org.au/reforming_competition_policy_for_fairer_markets_fact_sheet