The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has revealed the findings of its latest Small Business In Focus report, which tables the ACCC’s efforts to educate small business owners of their rights and responsibilities, and to take enforcement action where necessary.
Between July 1, 2013 and December 31, 2013, the watchdog received close to 3,600 complaints from small businesses – a massive 84 per cent increase from the first half of 2013. Enquiries from small businesses also increased dramatically. Franchising complaints rose slightly from 286 in the previous period to 309 this period, while franchising enquiries almost doubled.
ACCC Deputy Chair Michael Schaper said the growth in complaints received by small businesses and franchisees reflects the need to educate and empower the sector.
“The rise in complaints is likely due to a number of factors, such as increased awareness-raising campaigns by the ACCC amongst the small business sector; enhanced data collection of small business issues within the Commission’s info-centre; and increasing public debate about small business matters and the Competition and Consumer Act in recent months,” Schaper said.
Misleading conduct and false representations remained the biggest single issue for the small business and franchising sectors, with over 1,400 complaints received. Enquiries about the consumer guarantees were the second largest topic of concern.
“The Australian Consumer Law not only spells out the responsibilities of businesses towards their consumers, but also gives small firms certain protections,” Schaper said. “Australian businesses contacted us because they wanted to know both sides of the coin.”
The ACCC continued to use a range of compliance and enforcement tools to encourage compliance with the Competition and Consumer Act, including several significant court judgments.
Many small businesses were victims of scams in the period, with over $700,000 reported lost to the ACCC through false billing scams. To address this concern, the ACCC also released best practice guidance for business and review platforms to help them reduce the risk of misleading consumers through the use of online reviews.
ACCC resources for small business owners
- The Small Business In Focus report is available here.
- The ACCC small business helpline is 1300 302 021.
- The ACCC’s advice on the issue of online reviews can be found here.
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