Australia and China sign Cartel MOU (Aus / China – regulation)

The ACCC and the National Development and Reform Commission of the People’s Republic of China have signed a memorandum of understanding to pave the way “for increased engagement between the ACCC and NDRC on international cartel investigations affecting Australian and Chinese markets,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.

$2533 in Just 7 Days! (That’ll be a $10,200 fine, thanks) (Aus – criminal)

“O.C.M. Online Capital Markets Pty Ltd (OCM) has paid $30,600 in penalties after ASIC issued three infringement notices for false or misleading online advertising. Each infringement notice imposed a penalty of $10,200.” The company spruiked its financial services using claims including “$2533 in Just 7 Days!” The fine print was, ASIC says, too small to correct the misleading dominant messages in its advertising.

No Such Thing As A Free SMSF Setup (Aus – civil)

“The Federal Court of Australia has made declarations and ordered Superannuation Warehouse Australia Pty Ltd (SWA) to pay a penalty of $25,000 for false and misleading “Free SMSF Setup” advertising.”  ASIC had originally issued a $10,200 infringement notice; after SWA failed to pay, ASIC initiated civil penalty proceedings.

When Does Advertising Become Misleading? (Aus – regulatory)

One of the best, or worst, features of consumer law (depending on your perspective) is its use of value-based, ambulatory language: ‘misleading’, ‘deceptive’, ‘unconscionable’.  GE Money has, this month, decided to amend its language in certain advertisements, following ASIC’s expressions of concern that its existing advertising was ‘misleading’.  ASIC’s explanation of its position is revealing.

Corporate Licensee Stripped of Financial Service Licence (Aus – regulatory)

ASIC cancelled LSG Group Pty Ltd’s AFS licence; “ASIC Commissioner Greg Tanzer said ‘Licensees will not be absolved of their obligations, including those relating to previous or ongoing breaches by a change in control or ownership. Any prospective new owners and managers should ensure they conduct adequate due diligence before acquiring a licence and assume responsibility of the licensee[‘]s obligations.'”

ANZ Refunding $13 Million to Customers (Aus – regulatory)

Last month it was Westpac’s unauthorised insurance premiums, and CBA’s overcharging, this month it’s ANZ’s failure to pay bonus interest to customers.  “Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ) is compensating around 200,000 customers approximately $13 million after it failed to accurately apply bonus interest to Progress Saver Accounts (PSA) for a number of years. The refund payment includes an additional amount to recognise the time elapsed since the initial breach. ANZ reported this matter to ASIC under its breach reporting obligations in the Corporations Act.” ASIC does not appear to be taking any enforcement action.

Christmas Hampers Not So Merry (Aus – civil)

The Federal Court has found that a term of Chrisco Hampers Australia Ltd’s contracts is unfair, and that it engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct in the conduct of its business.  Penalty hearing has yet to be listed; pecuniary penalties are sought by ASIC.

Fair Work Ombudsman Secures Pecuniary Penalty Against Java Spice Australia Pty Ltd (Aus – civil)

The Federal Court ordered a $60,000 civil pecuniary penalty against Java Spice for failing to provide payslips, and paying staff less than the minimum wage, among other things.  The Court’s approach to determining the appropriate penalty is set out from [60] onwards.  The Court continues to rely on that problematic idea, “instinctive synthesis” when applying the “totality principle”.  At [68], the Court says “Each case involving the imposition of a civil penalty warrants an idiosyncratic approach and a careful analysis of all relevant circumstances.”  The case is yet another example of the cross-pollination of civil law with criminal law language.  In [110], the court says “Each of the Respondents is to be regarded as a first offender.”

Naughty NASA? (USA)

Can’t resist mentioning that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration has settled out-of-court with the US EPA for alleged environmental law violations at its Goddard Space Flight Centre. NASA neither admits nor denies the allegations.