The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has increased its focus on retail selling practices, warning retailers not to mislead customers on sales promotions and the savings they can make on discounted items.
The regulator is taking particular issue with what it calls 'was/now' pricing, saying there is a lot at stake for the perceived value that consumers find in price reductions. The ACCC says retailers must have sold a product for a reasonable time at the higher 'was' price, or to a reasonable number of customers, in order to advertise the price saving with a 'now' price.
The ACCC is far from being a toothless tiger when it comes to punishing retailers for misleading selling practices. This most recent push comes just months after the regulator cracked down on Harvey Norman for misleading its customers about their consumer rights – legal action that saw five Harvey Norman franchisees pay a total of almost $150,000 in penalties.
The focus on 'was/now' pricing is also particularly pertinent for consumer electronics retail, with all the major Australian tech retailers releasing weekly catalogues that give particular attention to discounts and savings off the ticketed price of products.
"Truth in advertising is not just a slogan, it's the law," said ACCC deputy chair Dr Michael Schaper. "The Australian Consumer Law aims to put businesses on a level playing field by requiring them to truthfully advertise their goods or services,"
"Nor can they try to get an unfair advantage over other firms by misleading their customers."
"Whether on television, radio, the internet or print media - businesses must ensure their advertising and selling practices comply with the law."