Number of SMEs contacting ACCC peaking on the back of online shift

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The ACCC reported that it received over 3500 contacts from small businesses in the first six months of this year, the highest number of contacts recorded in the last two years.

The ACCC’s latest Small Business in Focus report which highlights the ACCC’s work from January to June 2021 in the small business, franchising, and agriculture sectors, reveals that approximately one-quarter of all small business contacts to the ACCC are about online business activity.

“Given the difficult operating environment for many this year, it’s not surprising that many small businesses are contacting the ACCC to ask about their legal rights and responsibilities,” ACCC Deputy Chair Mick Keogh said. “The ACCC has developed new guidance specifically for businesses that are operating online, to help them understand their rights when dealing with other businesses and their responsibilities to consumers.”

In the first six months of this year, the ACCC undertook a range of enforcement action in the small business, franchising and agriculture sectors. The report also revealed that small businesses lost more than $5.3 million to scams between January and June 2021, which is 31 per cent higher than the previous six month period, mostly by billing and phishing scams.

On a more positive note for the SME sector, it also noted a number of changes made to the Competition and Consumer Act in the last six months that have benefited small businesses and franchisees. One of these changes is a new collective bargaining class exemption that allows eligible small businesses and farmers to collectively bargain with their suppliers and processors, eligible franchisees to collectively negotiate with a franchisor, and eligible fuel retailers to collectively negotiate with a fuel wholesaler.

Recent Franchising Code amendments also placed additional disclosure requirements on franchisors, make it illegal for a franchisor to change terms in a franchise agreement that apply retrospectively without a franchisee’s consent, and provide more dispute resolution options.

“We know that changes to the law are not always easy for people to put into action, so we are working very hard to get information to small businesses and franchises so they understand what the changes mean for them,” Keogh said.