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Set Top Box vendorHumax has run foul of the Trade Practices Act to the tune of a $150,000 penalty.

Further to our story that the ACCC had instituted legal proceedings against Humax for price fixing, the company was subsequently penalised $150,000.

The ACCC instituted legal proceedings in the Federal Court against Humax and Mr Andrew Song, manager of Humax, on 14 February 2005. Humax admitted to four contraventions of the resale price maintenance provisions of the Trade Practices Act.

Humax admitted it attempted to induce a number of small retailers not to sell Humax high-definition digital set top boxes at a price less than $599.00.

Justice Merkel in the Federal Court said the penalty could have been higher, but he was lenient due to the cooperation the court received form Humax management. In determining the appropriate penalty to recommend to the court, the ACCC noted Humax’s cooperation in resolving the case and avoiding the expenses and time of a full trial.

“Following the ACCC first raising the issue with Humax, the company offered to undertake trade practices training for its staff. The company also willingly agreed to court orders requiring the company to undertake compliance training”, Ms Sylvan said. “The ACCC also recognises that the conduct occurred for a short duration of only four days”.

“$150,000 represents a substantial penalty in the circumstances for contravening the resale price maintenance provisions of the Act for Humax. This penalty should send a message to directors and managers of companies that even engaging in anti-competitive conduct for a short period of time can result in significant consequences”, Ms Sylvan said.

Humax, through its manager Andrew Song, contacted three retailers in September 2004 by email, by telephone and by leaving a voice message. The retailers were small businesses, trading principally on the internet, located in Melbourne and Perth.

In addition to the penalty imposed on Humax, Justice Merkel ordered injunctions against Humax preventing it from engaging in similar conduct for a period of three years. He also ordered that Humax establish a trade practices compliance program for its staff. Song, who admitted to being knowingly concerned in each contravention by Humax, was also ordered to pay a pecuniary penalty of $7,500.