ACCC urged to source information from social media complaints

The consumer watchdog plans to harvest complaints on social media and use intelligence from other agencies to improve the way it deals with dodgy traders.

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The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has agreed to a number of the findings of an auditor-general report into its work.

The report, released on Thursday, found the ACCC was not making the most of sources of information other than the thousands of complaints it receives to ensure it is keeping up with trends in businesses ripping off consumers and responding quickly.

“Increasingly, consumers are using the internet through social media and online review sites to communicate and publicise difficulties they have had with traders,” the auditor found.

“The ACCC could make use of this, and other information, in a systematic way to increase its understanding of issues facing consumers.”

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The report said the ACCC should also work more closely with other consumer-related regulators such as state fair trading agencies, Austrac, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission and international bodies.

The ACCC agreed to the recommendation that it “increases the use of intelligence activities aimed at identifying trends, patterns of conduct and other factors that can indicate the existence of widespread consumer detriment”.

The auditor found the type of information given to the ACCC by other agencies was often simply lists of figures, or aggregated data.

Raw complaints data would be more useful to help the agency identify trends, patterns and issues of concern.

The ACCC could also learn from the way in which the Australian Taxation Office, Australian Prudential Regulation Authority and the Australian Fisheries Management Authority set their priorities for investigations.

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