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ACCC acts on profiteering messages after hailstorms

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The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has warned tradespeople against using anti-competitive pricing following natural disasters.

The call came after the competition regulator took action against two roofers who used social media to discuss raising their repair rates for hail-damaged properties.

Chairman Rod Sims said last week that “attempts to take advantage of people whose homes were damaged in natural disasters like hailstorms is something the ACCC takes very seriously”.

“The community will not just find this outrageous – it is also anti-competitive and illegal under Australian competition laws.”

The ACCC took action against Sydney roofers ANZ Roofing, Ivy Contractors and directors Mark Burtenshaw and Brent Callan-Kerkenezov over Facebook messages posted after tennis-ball sized hailstorms caused widespread damage last December.

A message on one Facebook group from Mr Burtenshaw showed an image of a large hailstone and read: “I think this latest storm is the perfect opportunity for the roofers of Sydney to increase pricing across the board as a standard that doesn’t decrease!”

The ACCC says Mr Kerkenezov said on one of the Facebook posts: “Let’s agree that we start from $65 and go up”, apparently referring to the price per linear metre to install new quad guttering.

The ACCC obtained enforceable undertakings but decided not to take court action due to the small size of the traders and their co-operation with the investigation.

The roofers acknowledged the price-fixing implications of their social media discussions and agreed the messages could have raised concerns under laws banning “concerted practices which have an anti-competitive purpose or effect”.

The undertakings involve commitments not to repeat the behaviour and for Mr Burtenshaw and Mr Kerkenezov to receive compliance training in competition and consumer law.