The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) enhances the welfare of Australians by promoting competition and protecting consumers. The organisation focuses on business conduct and how it impacts consumers, particularly those in vulnerable categories.

In addition to their long-term priorities, the ACCC regularly reviews social, economic, and environmental events and releases a list of areas for special enforcement focus for the following 12 months. This helps businesses focus their efforts in alignment with the regulator’s expectations. It also encourages companies to create processes that balance broad compliance objectives with a spotlight on areas of growing concern.

Here are several of the top priorities and how they impact key industries — and, perhaps most importantly, how to avoid becoming a cautionary tale!

How to understand and use the ACCC enforcement priorities

To analyse how the ACCC defines its priorities and how they’re being enforced, it is important to understand the context shaping these regulations.

The ACCC serves the public interest, and its focus reflects that of the people it protects. The regulator stands halfway between consumers and businesses, recognising and representing both perspectives to build better commerce. As such, its priorities are influenced by a variety of factors.

This year, the ACCC responded to three such factors in particular:

  • The importance of the transition to net zero
  • Disruption by the digital economy
  • The impact of cost-of-living pressures

The resulting ACCC policy places new and enduring priorities side by side. Complete with information on education campaigns, scam detection, and enforcement action, this document is built to help businesses sharpen legal and compliance efforts for the greater good in 2024 and 2025.

In parallel, the ACCC will continue focusing on conduct of “significant public interest or concern.” This includes anything that substantially impacts market participants (especially small businesses) or consumers (particularly those experiencing vulnerability or disadvantage). The ACCC decides what’s relevant based on its underlying values:

  • Accountability
  • Transparency
  • Confidentiality
  • Timeliness
  • Proportionality
  • Fairness


Top enforcement priorities for your business

This year’s priorities resonated with many of our clients in heavily regulated industries. They commonly identified three top areas of focus: environmental claims and sustainability, essential services, and the digital economy. Here’s a look at what we can learn from each category:

Environmental claims and sustainability

In 2022, the ACCC established a Sustainability Taskforce built on insights from regional and global counterparts. The Taskforce undertook an internet sweep, followed by widespread greenwashing investigations into organisations in the energy, household appliances, food and drink, and personal goods sectors.

The following year, the ACCC released specific guidance on making environmental claims, requiring businesses to follow certain principles. These include:

  • Making accurate and truthful claims
  • Avoiding broad, unqualified statements
  • Having evidence to back up claims
  • Explaining conditions or qualifications
  • Using clear, easy-to-understand language

The ACCC publicly acted on this focus for the first time in late 2023, accepting a court-enforceable undertaking from MOO Premium Foods.

These activities indicate an ongoing focus on progress toward sustainability, which is also reflected in the ACCC’s 2024-25 enforcement priorities. The regulator acknowledges that consumers play an important role in achieving net zero and that clear, correct green communication is the foundation of public trust and confidence. For these reasons, the ACCC will focus on “consumer, product safety, fair trading, and competition concerns in relation to environmental claims and sustainability.”

Essential services

The ACCC has three priorities when it comes to essential services:

  1. Competition, consumer, fair trading and pricing concerns in the supermarket sector, with a focus on food and groceries
  2. Misleading pricing and claims with a particular focus on energy and telecommunications
  3. Promoting competition, with a focus on telecommunications, electricity, gas, and financial services

Australians have been avidly following progress on the ACCC’s inquiry into supermarket prices and competition. This isn’t the first time the ACCC has put the supermarket sector under the microscope. After its 2008 inquiry into anti-competitive behaviour, the regulator accepted enforceable undertakings from Woolworths and Coles to cease using their leasing agreements with shopping centres to prevent competitors from setting up in the vicinity. In 2024, the focus is on pricing, the supply chain and the impact of online shopping. Marketers should pay particular attention to the findings on loyalty programs and discounting practices.

In the energy and telecommunications sector, the ACCC aims to improve claim transparency and accuracy. Misleading price and product communications include everything from mobile phone coverage to environmental benefits. As cost-of-living worries spread across the country, the ACCC wants to ensure consumers can make informed decisions when paying for these essential services.

The idea behind these actions is to ensure vigorous, fair competition. This doesn’t just benefit consumers; it also establishes a healthy foundation for the entire Australian economy. To make this happen, the ACCC is using its 2024-25 priorities to establish further protections across industries.

Digital economy

The ACCC acknowledges a recent jump in digital business, citing the 2023 Australian Consumer Law survey, which identified that 55% of problem transactions involved online commerce. The organisation also noted a steep rise in digital advertising, which leverages consumer purchase and search data.

These factors have influenced another ACCC priority: “[c]onsumer and fair-trading issues in the digital economy, with a focus on misleading or deceptive advertising within influencer marketing, online reviews, in-app purchases, and price comparison websites.” These areas are key in consumer persuasion but have also become manipulation tools. Their 2023 internet sweep identified two main areas of concern:

  • Influencer posts: 81% raised concerns about undisclosed sponsorship, many based on tip-offs from consumers
  • Online product reviews: More than a third of surveyed businesses engaged in concerning conduct

The regulator also intends to look more closely at price comparison websites that may not “convey the extent of sponsorship and commercial incentives” from outside sources.

Similarly, the ACCC will analyse in-app purchases in the video gaming industry, which is often guilty of targeting younger consumers, providing inadequate purchasing safeguards, and deliberately confusing users. This is all part of ongoing work to ensure accuracy and honesty while addressing cost-of-living and price challenges.


Key takeaways for industries

Organisations must be able to understand the ACCC priorities at two levels:

  1. What they’re trying to do in the market overall; and
  2. What they need from your business specifically.

Throughout this year’s priorities, we see a particular focus on energy, financial services, and telecommunications. If you’re in one of these sectors, you’ll want to pay close attention to regulations involving:

  • Environmental claims and sustainability
  • Transparency and accuracy
  • Misleading price and product communications


Next steps: How Red Marker can help

You may be in an industry under scrutiny and already feeling the heat. Even if you’re not but you recognise the conduct described, it’s a good idea to self-correct before the regulator takes a closer look. Proactively implementing solutions that improve your legal and compliance guardrails will help keep you off the ACCC’s radar.

Tools built specifically to alleviate the pressure on organisations to comply with nuanced regulatory stances are becoming increasingly commonplace. Marketing compliance software such as Red Marker can help you:


1.Reviewing environmental and sustainability claims

By using Red Marker’s document scanning platform, you can ensure marketing materials adhere to relevant guidelines for fair trading and consumer protection — all before you publish anything. Our platform can automatically assess your content and flag compliance risks concerning the following:

  • Substantiation: Ensure sustainability claims are backed by credible evidence such as scientific data, independent certification, or third-party verification.
  • Clarity and accuracy: Claims should not exaggerate the environmental benefits of a product or service, and any limitations or conditions associated with sustainability claims should be disclosed prominently.
  • Comparative claims: Claims comparing the environmental attributes of products must be supported by valid evidence and presented transparently. Avoid making disparaging or unverifiable comparisons that may mislead consumers.
  • Endorsements and certifications: Use endorsements and certifications responsibly, ensuring accurate representation of a product or service’s environmental credentials. Misleading endorsements or certifications that imply third-party validation without proper substantiation may breach consumer protection laws.
  • Greenwashing: Guard against false or misrepresentative sustainability claims to present a misleading impression of environmental responsibility. Greenwashing can undermine consumer trust and may result in regulatory action or reputational damage.


2.Ensuring essential services marketing materials meet relevant guidelines

If you’re in essential services, product accuracy claims and marketing materials likely need to meet multiple sets of guidelines, including regulatory and internal requirements. These often concern substantiation, truthfulness, accuracy, clarity, and readability.

Pay special attention to any communication about pricing, discounting, and loyalty programs. Whether it’s injudicious use of “strikethrough,” an unbalanced comparison with a competitor, or a lack of transparency about data collection for a loyalty program, there are numerous ways to run afoul of the regulator.

Red Marker’s document scanning platform centralises these guidelines and uses custom logic to undertake objective reviews of marketing content. This speeds up review processes, increases accuracy, and enhances relationships between legal and marketing teams.


3.Identifying risk in your existing online content

Red Marker’s Web Reports tool identifies risks across your website content, highlighting:

  • High-risk words
  • Absolute phrases
  • Missing copyright information
  • Outdated promotions
  • Misleading phrases
  • Incorrect or missing disclaimers


Take legal reviews to the next level

Of course, the ACCC priorities are just one aspect of marketing legal reviews. Maintaining compliance involves considering claims, communications, and marketing/advertising materials from countless angles — and all before publication.

Last year’s priorities are still important, and this year’s priorities will remain important next year, even after the ACCC publishes a new set of areas for scrutiny. Staying on top of the ever-increasing list of regulatory topics presents a considerable burden for organisations.

Fortunately, Red Marker makes marketing review tasks visible, accessible, and automated, simplifying the process and saving time across the board. It’s one more way to support your team with the critical tasks that protect your business — and, by extension, consumers and the Australian economy.

Ready to get started? Contact us today to learn how Red Marker helps you keep up with the ACCC enforcement priorities, industry-specific regulations, and more.

Enforcement priorities

Back to Blog & News