9129113_mhomeAUSTRALIA: Refrigerant supplier Actrol has been fined AUS$520,000 (€367,000) for misleading customers over price increases.

The Australian Federal Court found that Actrol Parts Pty Ltd had made false or misleading representations in a letter sent to approximately 8000 of its customers and posted on its website concerning the reasons for Actrol implementing significant increases in the price of certain HFC refrigerants (R134a, R410A, R404A, R407C and R507) which took effect from July 1, 2012.

In its letter to customers, Actrol represented that the price increases were due to the introduction of the carbon tax scheme and changes in input costs and general market conditions. In fact, according to the court, Actrol increased its prices to increase its margins and earnings on these HFC refrigerants and to take into account changes in its costs of supplying those HFCs.

When the hugely unpopular carbon tax was introduced in Australia in 2012, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) was charged with investigating businesses that engaged in misleading conduct concerning the effect of the carbon tax. Under the repeal of the carbon tax in 2014, the ACCC was given a role to monitor prices of relevant goods and to take action against businesses engaging in price exploitation relating to those goods.

“The proceedings arose from the ACCC’s role in investigating false or misleading claims about the impact of the introduction of the carbon tax scheme,” ACCC chairman Rod Sims confirmed.

“The letter misled Actrol’s customers about the impact of the introduction of the carbon tax scheme on the price of HFC refrigerant gas. Actrol’s price increases for HFC refrigerant gas were not introduced to cover the cost of the Carbon Tax, but instead were made to increase its margins and to take into account increased supply costs on these products.”

The Court also ordered Actrol to send a letter to each of the addressees of the letter it sent in 2012 advising them of the outcome of the proceedings and publish the letter on its website. It was also ordered to publish a corrective notice in The Australian newspaper, implement a competition and consumer compliance programme, refrain from engaging in similar conduct for a period of three years and contribute $50,000 towards the ACCC’s costs of the proceedings.

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