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ACCC releases small business report

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has released its Small Business In Focus Report, looking at the contact that small business had with the ACCC in 2012.

With the release of this report, the ACCC have said that it is continuing its campaign to provide small business with more information regarding their rights and obligations under  competition and consumer laws.

The report looks at the number of enquiries and complaints that were made to the ACCC over the first half of this financial year by small businesses, with numbers decreasing from the second half of last financial year. The number of enquiries and complaints regarding franchising had increased however.

Most complaints were regarding misleading conduct or false representations, with most coming from Queensland, Victoria and NSW, though as ACCC Deputy Chair Dr Michael Schaper says, not all of these are regarding the actions of small businesses.”These enquiries are usually going in one of two directions. They’re either saying what can I say to customers or, interestingly enough, it’s frequently about  business to business dealing, so people saying I’ve been dealing with another business and I don’t think they’ve told me the full truth. So we’re keen to let businesses know that they’ve still got rights as well.  You should feel free to ring us and find out where you stand.”

Schaper added that small business should always check to see what their rights and responsibilities are if they’re ever not sure. “There are a couple of things that we think are important: if you’re not sure where you stand, ring us and ask our helpline. You don’t have to say who you are, but we’re more than happy for people to ring and ask. The second thing is to be careful of scams, one thing we mention in the report is that small business continues to be approached by scams and rorts like false billing scams. They’re quite  susceptible to that.”

The ACCC have released this report as part of their continued focus on helping small businesses understand the complicated laws surrounding consumers and competition.  “The ACCC is a very unusual competition organisation around the world as we’re pretty much the only one where the law says there needs to be a Deputy Chair with a small business background, and so it reflects the fact that we recognise the biggest group of business in Australia is small business,” Schaper said. “Most people talk to the big end of town, the corporates and their lawyers. But most businesses are small, they’re micros, and giving them highly legalistic answers and lecturing them doesn’t help them. It talks down to them, so sometimes what you need to do is explain it in really simple language and just give the big picture. We also need to explain that the law gives you some rights and you should feel free to exercise those. Just because you’re in business doesn’t mean you’re in the wrong, many times you’re in the right.”

For more information on what are your small business rights and responsibilities under consumer law, contact the ACCC helpline on 1300 302 021, or visit their website.