26 September 2023

Fair trading to lift lid on price hikes

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The Queensland Office of Fair Trading (OFT) is warning traders to treat consumers fairly and avoid price gouging when there are shortages of some products as a result of COVID-19 panic buying.

Executive Director of Fair Trading, Brian Bauer said the OFT would consider all complaints made about price gouging or profiteering and investigate serious allegations where evidence was available.

“Prices for goods and services often rise in times of natural disasters and in other crises where supply chains are disrupted or where demand exceeds supply,” Mr Bauer said.

“We’re saying to traders: Do not hike up prices exponentially during the COVID-19 emergency as significant penalties apply under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) if you are found to be acting unconscionably.”

Mr Bauer said large penalties applied for breaches of the ACL including up to $10 million per contravention, or three times the value of the benefit obtained by the breach, or if the Court could not determine the value of the benefit — 10 per cent of the annual turnover of the corporation.

“The OFT is advising consumers that if they see unusually high prices for goods and services to check with the business why they have increased prices,” he said.

“If they are not satisfied with the response they should submit a complaint to the OFT for consideration.”

Mr Bauer said the OFT empathised with industry, business, not-for-profits and the community about the sudden changes to Queensland’s economy.

“We will continue to work with our stakeholders and customers to assist where we can with targeted communication, education, compliance and enforcement,” he said.

“Information about the changes to industries regulated by the OFT is being posted on our website.”

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