The Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Kate Carnell has voiced support for the “super complaints” proposal announced by Shadow Assistant Treasurer Andrew Leigh.
“A ‘super complaints’ function would allow advocacy bodies, such as ourselves, to put forward and fast-track investigations by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) into key small business concerns, such as dishonest industry conduct or misconduct by an entity impacting many small businesses,” Carnell said.
The ACCC would be obliged to examine a particular concern within a limited timeframe and then publicly respond to the complaint, including its proposed actions. The ASBFEO said it has a couple of major small business issues currently with the ACCC that could be dealt with as part of a “super complaints” function now if it were operational.
“This would provide much better visibility to the business community of bad behaviour and regulator scrutiny,” Carnell said. “For example, in August last year we brought to the attention of the ACCC a number of serious issues regarding business equipment contracts and practices that are harming small businesses across Australia. Having this on the public record together with proposed ACCC approaches would improve outcomes.
The Ombudsman also noted that this would support the ASBFEO’s management of disputes under the Franchising, Horticulture and Oil Codes, where we identify poor behaviour. Instead of government deciding what is best for small businesses, the proposal would allow business itself to elevate its concerns to the highest levels.
“A ‘super-complaints’ policy could be a game changer in getting action on the issues that matter most to Australian small businesses,” Carnell said.