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Watchdog warns it will keep close eye on carbon tax rorts

The competition regulator is keeping a close eye on the building industry and energy-saving companies such as solar panel businesses before introduction of the carbon tax on July 1.

The warning comes as the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman, Rod Sims, told the Herald it had received more than 230 complaints about carbon tax pricing since it invited consumers to report businesses suspected of gouging late last year.

He said builders and businesses selling energy-saving products would come under particular scrutiny, being the subject of some of the more serious complaints.

Many complaints involved businesses overstating price increases to building fees and energy bills after July 1 in a bid to ”dupe” consumers into buying products they might not otherwise have bought.

”Because there are so many components that make up a building … it gets complicated. And whenever it’s complicated there is a lot of scope for people to try to mislead consumers,” Mr Sims said.

Mr Sims said the ACCC was considering legal action against some businesses, which could face fines of up to $1.1 million for serious breaches and between $6600 and $66,000 for infringements by public companies.

A building industry spokesman, Brian Welch, said builders were expected to do the right thing whether the watchdog was watching or not.

”The fact is builders are going to bear the brunt of these cost increases,” he said.

Mr Sims said councils would also come under scrutiny after some indicated they could raise rates by up to 3 per cent to cover costs incurred by the carbon tax.

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