The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) has broad powers to investigate suspected breaches of the competition and consumer provisions of the Competition and Consumer Act (CCA), including the use of coercive statutory powers to issue section 155 notices and to obtain search and seizure warrants. These powers may be used by the ACCC in investigations into conduct such as cartel conduct, misuse of market power, anti-competitive agreements, mergers, misleading and deceptive conduct and breaches of consumer warranties.
Receiving a section 155 notice from the ACCC or being the subject of a 'dawn raid' by the ACCC can be a stressful and intimidating event and can result in the company expending significant amounts of unrecoverable time and money. It is critical to understand in advance the correct way to respond to such approaches by the ACCC, so as to ensure the company’s response is done cost effectively and in a manner that will minimise the risks for the company in any on-going investigation by the ACCC (and perhaps by other overseas competition regulators too).
In a series of three updates, we will examine the different types of coercive information-gathering powers of the ACCC and suggest some practical 'do’s and don’ts' for companies. In the first update of the series, we examine section 155(1) (a) and (b) notices.