Big business – you might remember them from such scandals as ‘you pay tax, we don’t’ and ‘we’re going to try and rip you off at every available opportunity’. Alex Horvath and Hannah Marshall from Marque Lawyers review five recent decisions from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission where big business was caught in the act.
1. GlaxoSmithKline and Novartis suffer pain over misleading Voltaren claims
You’d think big pharma might have learned a lesson from the $6 million penalty Reckitt Benckiser paid for their Nurofen not-really-pain-specific products. Apparently not.
GSK and Novartis are now in trouble over their Voltaren Emulgel and Osteo Gel products – the latter being made with the same active ingredient as the former, but priced 33 per cent higher and labelled to suggest it provided targeted relief for osteo arthritis.
The ACCC says that the products misrepresented that the Osteo Gel product provided more effective relief than regular Voltaren. In light of the Nurofen case, the ACCC saw the Voltaren marketing as particularly, ahem, inflammatory.
We sense some big fines on the horizon.
2. Red Balloon feels the pinch of penalties for excessive payment surcharges
Online seller Red Balloon copped $43,200 in fines for charging excessive payment surcharges on its website. If you’re unaware, there is now a ban on any business imposing excessive surcharges on card transactions. They can only charge a customer what it costs them to accept the payment.
Large businesses such as Red Balloon were required to be compliant from September 2016, and all businesses were affected from September 2017. The ACCC is paying close attention to compliance.
3. Meriton busted for manipulating TripAdvisor reviews
The ACCC came up trumps against Meriton in a recent court stoush relating to blatant manipulation of TripAdvisor ratings. Normally, all Meriton visitors would receive an email inviting them to review their stay on TripAdvisor. Meriton tried some dodgy tactics to stop suspected unhappy campers from getting these emails.
Meriton told the Court that people weren’t misled because the tactics didn’t work; seriously unhappy guests still managed to post reviews on their own. Yeah, nah, said the Court which found Meriton‘s conduct was likely to mislead consumers about the quality of its hotels.
Meriton’s behaviour looks pretty sneaky and deliberate. A penalty’s still to come, but it could be a big one.
4 & 5. Telstra and Optus in hot water over NBN claims
Just when you thought the NBN couldn’t get any more disappointing, it turns out that both Telstra and Optus have been (allegedly) misleading thousands of customers about NBN access and speed.
Optus is in trouble for pressuring 20,000 customers to move from its current broadband network to the new NBN network sooner than was necessary, when Optus got a kickback from NBN Co for each new NBN customer. It also told some customers that they had to obtain the NBN from Optus, when they could have used another ISP.
Meanwhile, Telstra is on the hook for telling 42,000 customers they would get maximum speeds that the NBN wasn’t actually capable of delivering. They called it a “Super Fast Speed Boost” but it wasn’t any kind of boost at all.
Telstra admitted liability to the ACCC and has agreed to court-enforceable undertakings that include offering refunds, contract terminations or a change in plan without fees.
If you’ve got questions about businesses behaving badly, you can visit Marque Lawyers here or give them a call on 02 8216 3000.