The Commission assesses information it receives in this way, along with information it gathers from its own market monitoring and surveillance activities, to determine the investigations that it carries out into unfair or misleading trading practices.
Investigations are commenced according to a set of enforcement criteria.
If the Commission considers that a breach of the Act may have occurred, it has a number of options open to it for resolving each investigation. The options include prosecuting the offending business where this is considered the most appropriate action. Only the courts can give an authoritative ruling as to whether behaviour breaches the Act and award appropriate penalties.
In the course of carrying out an investigation, the Commission is able to use certain statutory powers to assist it in gathering information and evidence about the behaviour it considers is in breach of the Fair Trading Act.
The Fair Trading Act provides some general defences to criminal actions taken under the Act. Note that these defences do not apply to civil actions.
In the course of some investigations, the Commission may reach the finding that no breach has occurred, or that it is more appropriate for another enforcement agency (such as the Police or the Serious Fraud Office) to investigate the matter, and therefore that no further enforcement action is required by the Commission.
Criminal court action may result in fines of up to $200,000 per offence for an individual and $600,000 per offence for a company. Both a company and the individuals involved in a breach can be prosecuted by the Commission.