ACCC has online fraudsters in its sightsA crackdown on internet scams and the break-up of cartel collusion will be the focus of campaigns this year for chief consumer regulator Graeme Samuel.
Mr Samuel said yesterday that the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) would conduct a sweep of the internet, starting on February 20, looking for scams.
"We are working with agencies from around the world endeavouring to establish where scams might be occurring."
Mr Samuel was speaking at a Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) lunch in Melbourne.
"I can assure you that this year we will start taking some major actions where we see breaches occurring,"he said.
The big banks are regular targets of offshore fraudsters who post phoney websites in the hope of coaxing pin numbers off customers in order to empty their accounts.
Mr Samuel said the ACCC had adopted a policy of leniency to attract whistleblowers to blow the lid on cartels.
"This year we have approximately three to five cartels that are facing serious litigation as a result of the leniency policy working,"he said.
"Whistleblowers have been to us . . . and the result of that is we now have a number of cartels where I am reasonably confident we will go to court action."
He described cartel price-fixing collusion as "a cancer on the economy".
"It is silent extortion,"Mr Samuel said.
"One of the most vigorous and prime priorities for this year will be focusing on cartel operations and starting work on the break-up of those operations."
He said he would continue to publicly campaign for jail sentences against those responsible for the cartels.
"It is for this reason I am still strongly publicly promoting the concept of criminal sanctions to be imposed under the Trade Practices Act,"he said.
Mr Samuel said the ACCC would also be issuing a report this month dealing with the fuel and grocery sectors covering creeping acquisitions, and the shopper docket schemes of Coles Myer and Woolworths.
"The direction of the report is to say what needs to be done to ensure that, in the medium term, consumers will be given the benefit of vigorous and multiple competition,"he said.
By Jeff Turnbull
February 3, 2004
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