As per officials, Australian Consumer Law has been released exposure draft legislation specifying Proposed Amendments to the (ACL). The exposure draft includes a proposal to enable private litigants to rely on facts admitted in ACCC enforcement proceedings. This steps has been taken by Govt for more ‘follow on’ litigation, including class actions against companies who the ACCC has successfully pursued for contravening the ACL.
The Competition and Consumer Act (CCA) has long included a provision (section 137H) which enables findings of fact made against a person in proceedings brought by the ACCC to be used as prima facie evidence against them in a subsequent proceeding. This ‘follow-on’ provision reduces the evidentiary burden on private litigants who take subsequent action seeking remedies arising from conduct that a Court has found to have Contravened the ACL. This mechanism helps to reduce the costs involved in private actions because the private litigant is not required to incur expense establishing key facts that have already been determined in enforcement proceedings.
However, currently there is no provision which enables private litigants to easily rely on admissions of fact as prima facie evidence in a subsequent action. Some case law suggests that the existing ‘follow on’ provision may not extend to such admissions.
The exposure draft legislation proposes to amend section 137H of the CCA to enable private litigants to rely on admissions made by the respondent, as well as facts established in earlier proceedings, as evidence in their own case. Agreed facts from earlier proceedings will remain available to litigants.