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Shadow Minister discusses ACCC and its new Chairman.



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Media Release by…

ALAN GRIFFIN MP Shadow Minister for Consumer Protection & Consumer Health

12 August 2003

TRANSCRIPT OF INTERVIEW WITH DIANE COVENY-GARLAND, 2SM SYDNEY

COVENY-GARLAND: Introduction about ACCC Chairman Graeme Samuel.

I’m joined by the Shadow Minister for Consumer Protection and Consumer Health, Alan Griffin. Hello Alan, thanks for joining us this afternoon.

GRIFFIN: Hello Diane.

COVENY-GARLAND: What is the problem with the ACCC’s approach to getting businesses to comply with the Trade Practices Act.

GRIFFIN: It’s a new approach. It’s a new approach that is something that Alan Fels over a decade never embraced as Chairman of the ACCC. That's one of the concerns we’ve got that we are seeing the new Chairman moving down a particular track that over ten years the previous Chairman never sought to embrace in this manner.

The other point about this that you’re talking about a situation where there’s a range of questions still to be answered about voluntary codes of practice. The whole problem with a voluntary code of practice is exactly that, it’s voluntary. So the question of having complete coverage of a particular industry, the issue around the question of what do you do if someone has done the wrong thing under the code, what sanctions are available, all those issues are pretty uncertain.

COVENY-GARLAND: Of course if it is voluntary then that means that not every business has to worry about it.

GRIFFIN: That’s right and the problem with that is if I’m a consumer and I’m endeavouring to get advice in a particular area or seek from an industry a particular good or service, what happens if I’m dealing with someone who is not honouring that code of practice?

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COVENY-GARLAND: Do you think that it should be made a standard code of practice rather than voluntary, or can you suggest any other way of going about it?

GRIFFIN: The question here also is a matter of resourcing as to what the ACCC’s doing. If the ACCC needs to now turn it’s limited resources to a situation of monitoring of voluntary codes of practices, then I’m a little worried of how much will actually go into enforcement action. I do believe with companies that are doing the wrong thing, and they are a minority but they’re the ones we should be concerned about, they are less likely to be part of a voluntary code of practice in the first place and they’re likely to be causing problems that require enforcement action.

COVENY-GARLAND: Are there any particular industries where you think this could be more of a problem than others?

GRIFFIN: I wouldn’t like to choose a particular industry but I would say there’s a range of areas particularly around the finance area where there’s been concerns raised in recent times and reports coming out about dodgy

practices by a minority within industry. They are areas where you would have to wonder how successful a voluntary code of practice is likely to be. Again it would depend case by case but there are certainly some concerns there.

COVENY-GARLAND: Certainly is. Do you think then perhaps the ACCC should go about it in a different way?

GRIFFIN: It’s a little bit concerning that the new Chairman so soon after taking over seems to be hell bent announcing and heading down a path that seems to be at odds with what was happening previously. In a situation where we are not sure as to the implications for resourcing, we’re not sure as to what that will mean in terms of the actual operation of the ACCC in the future it’s got some real hairs on it for consumers.

COVENY-GARLAND: Thank you very much for joining us this afternoon Alan, and good luck with pursuing this one.

GRIFFIN: Thanks Diane.

COVENY-GARLAND: That’s Alan Griffin, Shadow Minister for Consumer Protection and Consumer Health.

For further information please contact: Alan Griffin: 0419 353 476