Watchdog To Attack Drip Pricing + Online Scams

Written by Oonagh Reidy     13/03/2014 | 11:09 | Category: CONTENT & DOWNLOADS

Drip pricing, online scams the focus for ACCC in 2014, says Chairman

Watchdog To Attack Drip Pricing + Online ScamsThree quarters (76 per cent) of Australia's 15.4 million internet users purchased something online in 2012-13. 

That's according to Rod Sims, Chairman of Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) speaking at the National Consumer Congress today in Sydney. 

The high-tech consumer world, now poses "many consumer protection challenges," he said, as he pledged to continue to protect consumer rights and product guarantees in the online marketplace. 

The watchdog receives around 160,000 complaints and inquiries from consumers annually. 

Online rorts like drip pricing on comparator websites are priorities for the ACCC this year, he said. Online reviews, scams, consumer guarantee rights and the telco industry are other bugbears the watchdog will be tackling this year.

"In the past year or so we have been working to uphold the integrity of online reviews as well as looking into conduct which may limit competition in the online retail environment." 

Sims said the priority area now is comparator websites and drip pricing, warning of "enforcement action in this area shortly."

Drip pricing is an "emerging concern", where consumers see a 'headline' price advertised at the beginning of booking an airfare or event ticket but when it comes to payment, additional charges magically appear.

Drip pricing lacks transparency and it can also make it "difficult for businesses to compete on a level playing field."

"Consumers purchasing airfares or event tickets are all too familiar with this practice." He also spoke of recent action in group buying in-app purchases and online dating scams, as well as taking Apple to task over its 'iPad 4G' claims, 3DTV promotions and advertising of broadband plans. 

And there's more to come, Sims told the National Congress today.  

ACCC Chair has pledged to continue scrutiny of the teleco industry's advertising and sales practices, referring to the High Court's decision last year to reinstate a $2 million penalty against TPG. 

In 2012, consumers reportedly lost over $93 million to scams, but these statistics represent just "the tip of the iceberg," he warns.