ACCC appoints new commissioner for agribusiness sector focus

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 24th February 2016

WheatThe Australian Competition Consumer Commission (ACCC) has today appointed Mick Keogh as the first ACCC agriculture commissioner to be involved in a new strategic involvement by the ACCC in the agriculture sector.


Mick Keogh is the Executive Director of the Australian Farm Institute and was previously the General Policy Manager at the NSW Farmers’ Association. He has worked for ten years as an agriculture consultant for both government and private sector clients.


ACCC Chairman Rod Sims made the announcement after yesterday revealing the ACCC’s top priorities for 2016, one of which is agriculture industry concerns.


Agriculture enforcement unit


The ACCC has established an Agriculture Enforcement and Engagement Unit that contains additional staff to conduct investigations and engagement in rural and regional areas with funding provided through the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper.


“Mr Keogh will play a key role in the work of the ACCC’s Agriculture Enforcement and Engagement Unit, which has been working to identify competition and fair trading issues in agriculture markets and engaging with a range of key industry groups,” Sims stated.


ACCC priorities for 2016 will include “misleading health claims” on food products


Speaking at a Committee for Economic Development of Australia event in Sydney yesterday, Sims detailed the ACCC’s top priorities for 2016, one of which includes food health claims.


“We have focused on misleading health claims in relation to certain food products, and have some well-advanced investigations in this area,” Sims said.


Anti-competitive conduct investigations


In the area of competition law, Sims said the ACCC will continue to take a strong line of cartels, anti-competitive conduct and misuse of market power.


“We have around 20 cartel investigations under way at any one time and we expect one or two criminal prosecutions this year and some other important civil proceedings,” Sims stated.


ACCC’s other areas of interest


Sims said the ACCC will be using market studies to ‘shine a light’ on the competitiveness of particular agricultural supply chains, regional petrol prices and Australia’s east coast gas market.


“Competition and consumer issues in the agriculture sector are a new priority and will be a primary focus for our market studies,” Sims said.


Warranties: Larger-sized companies will need to be careful with express and extended warranties and the health sector will need to ensure its disclosure practices are in line with Australian Consumer Law.


Indigenous and elderly protection: Indigenous consumer protection will be an on-going area of concern along with protection of the elderly and those who have recently arrived in Australia.


“This is a significant change to our policy recognising that Indigenous consumers, particularly those living in remote areas, continue to face challenges in asserting their consumer rights,” Sims said.


Scams: Scams will not be forgotten about with the ACCC saying it will keep contacting those sending money overseas to “scam hot spots”.