Recent enforcement action taken by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) are a reminder that providers of goods and services need to take care when making statements about the true price of their offerings, in order to avoid engaging in misleading or deceptive conduct in contravention of the Australian Consumer Law.
This year alone, the ACCC has engaged in enforcement and compliance activities in a number of high-profile instances, including proceedings against:
- Jetstar and Virgin Airlines, alleging that the airlines mislead consumers by advertising flights at a particular ‘headline’ price, when the cost would in fact be higher if particular payment methods were used by the purchaser (June 2014)
- Spreets, an online ‘daily deals’ website, alleging that, amongst other things, Spreets mislead consumers about the price of particular goods as well as their refund rights (June 2014); and
- Bet365, an online betting agency, in the Federal Court of Australia, alleging that it mislead consumers by making offers of ‘free bets’ and a ‘deposit bonus’, which were in fact subject to various conditions (August 2014).
If you are a provider of goods and services, you need to ensure that you make full, accurate and upfront disclosure about pricing across all areas where you make representations, including all forms of advertising (such as print, radio/TV, or online), in-store displays and information, your terms and conditions and other contractual documentation, and your website.
In particular, you must take care to:
- disclose upfront, at the start of the purchasing process, the total price of goods or services, which include any fees and charges which are unavoidable, or likely to apply, to a purchase (this is particularly relevant for online transactions); and
- disclose prominently any conditions upon which a particular price or offer are contingent.