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ACCC to prevent carbon price gouging

The nation’s consumer watchdog will be the “cop on the beat” to prevent price gouging under the government’s planned carbon pricing scheme.

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The commission will use its powers under the newly-introduced Australian Consumer Law to investigate claims of price gouging and prosecute any business, with the power to impose penalties of up to $1.1 million.

Treasurer Wayne Swan says the carbon price, due to operate from July 1, 2012, will only have a modest impact on most prices.

“The commission will keep a watchful eye out for any shonky attempts to jack up prices and falsely claim it is related to the carbon price,” he said in Melbourne.

“So the ACCC will be the cop on the beat out there to ensure false claims are dealt with, and dealt with the full force of the law.”

Commission deputy chairman Peter Kell said his organisation was ready with 20 new staff to investigate any complaints now.

The government will direct the ACCC to give the highest priority to:

* Investigate and take action against any business that makes false or misleading representations about the impact of the carbon price on the price they charge consumers;

* Educate businesses on their obligations to not make false or misleading statements to consumers about the impact of the carbon price on the price they charge consumers;

* Raise awareness among consumers by informing them that businesses are prohibited from making false statements about the impact of putting a price on pollution.

The government has provided the commission with funding of $12.8 million over four years to carry out the new role.

“We recognise the vast majority of businesses will do the right thing,” Mr Swan said.

“This funding will help stop the small number of businesses that may seek to take advantage of their customers with false and misleading claims about the impact of the carbon price.”

Treasury modelling estimates the impact of the carbon tax on prices will add 0.7 per cent to the inflation rate in 2012/13.

“The GST and related changes to the tax system pushed up prices more than three times as much as the carbon price is expected to,” Mr Swan said.

 

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