‘Super complainers’ line up ACCC

Person pushes unhappy feedback button. | Newsreel
CHOICE has new powers to make complaints to the ACCC. | Photo: Tero Versalainen. (iStock)

Consumer group CHOICE is one of Australia’s first ‘super complainers’.

The Federal Government today announced the advocacy group would be one the first empowered under new legislation to make designated complaints to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

CHOICE Director of Campaigns and Communications Rosie Thomas said the new function, which was similar to the ‘super complaints’ function in the UK, meant complaints submitted to the ACCC by CHOICE must be considered and publicly responded to within 90 days.

Ms Thomas said, ordinarily, complaints to the ACCC did not require a public response and were not subject to any timeframe requirements.

“CHOICE is delighted to be one of the first advocates to be given this special status.

“Our rigorous and independent product and service testing, consumer research and tip-offs from our 400,000-strong supporter and member base across Australia make CHOICE uniquely positioned to identify the biggest issues facing consumers and bring them to the ACCC’s attention.”

Ms Thomas said the UK’s ‘super complaints’ function had led to significant positive change for consumers, including stronger protections against scams following a complaint from UK consumer group Which?.

“CHOICE looks forward to working with consumers and other consumer groups to make our first ‘super complaint’. We encourage all consumers to tell us what dodgy business practice they think warrants a ‘super complaint’ .”

The ACCC said under the scheme, which was legislated earlier this year, certain consumer and business advocacy groups, approved by the Minister, could make designated complaints to the ACCC.

It said complaints would need to meet certain criteria, including that they related to a significant or systemic market issue affecting consumers or small business in Australia, and that they related to a breach of the Competition and Consumer Act or the ACCC’s powers or functions under the Act.

“The ACCC will be required to assess and publicly respond to the designated complaint within 90 days. The ACCC’s response must state what further action, if any, will be taken in response to the complaint,” it said in a statement.

The other approved designated complainants are the Consumer Action Law Centre (CALC) and the Council of Small Business Organisations Australia (COSBOA).