The digital and online economy is posing one of the biggest regulatory challenges for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

Speaking at the 2012 Competition Law Conference, ACCC chairman Rod Sims said the ACCC’s priority is to engage with the online world to ensure appropriate competition laws are enforced

“The ACCC must strive to ensure consumers enjoy the same protections in the digital and online economy as they do elsewhere,” Sims said.

“The ACCC must also ensure that the digital and online economy produces the large benefits of increased competition that it promises."

According to the ACCC, the Ticketek case, which concluded late last year, serves as a reminder. The court imposed a penalty of $2.5 million against the company for taking advantage of its market power following action by the ACCC.

“Ticketek’s behaviour was anti-competitive and was found by the court to be unacceptable. The outcome of the case will benefit consumers who will have access to discount ticket deals that are increasingly accessible online,” Sims said.

“Online technology is revolutionising competitive dynamics and promises enormous benefits. But attempts to capitalise on the uncertainties of that change – in order to damage the competition – is not an acceptable business strategy.”

Sims also raised the issue of price signalling, which will be included in the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 from June 6. The new provisions will initially apply only to the banking sector, and only in relation to the taking of deposits and making advances or loans.

“Under the law taking effect in June, it will be unlawful for a banking firm to disclose prices to competitors in private where doing so is not in the ordinary course of business,” he said.

“But the ACCC thinks that statements that genuinely describe market reality are unlikely to raise concerns of anti-competitive conduct.”