Coming clean on carbon tax
AUSTRALIA’S corporate regulator has found only a handful of serious cases relating to businesses exploiting the carbon tax to push up prices, despite many businesses being unsure about the impact of the tax.
Australian Competition & Consumer Commission deputy chairman Michael Schaper said that, in the first 10 days of July, 630 carbon price complaints were lodged to the ACCC.
However, this was a relatively small portion of the 8,350 complaints received by the ACCC during the same period.
Mr Schaper said very few of the carbon-related complaints had been lodged by businesses themselves, with the majority coming from misunderstandings between customers and competitors.
“We only have between one and two dozen matters where we’re actively investigating them in detail,” he said.
Mr Schaper added there were only two matters where the ACCC was likely to take action.
Many of the complaints had come from the transition period of the carbon price.
“The first couple of months of a new tax are always the most confusing as no-one quite knows what’s going on” Mr Schaper said.
“Over time people will get used to what their costs are, but at the moment some suppliers have a good idea while some don’t, and that confusion feeds through the chain.”
Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA spokesman Adam Duke said the main issue for small businesses had been confusion over how the carbon tax would affect them.
“Many businesses know their energy costs will increase by 10 per cent,” he said.
“However, in terms of how the costs pass through the supply chain from the larger suppliers to the small businesses, we still don’t know what the full impact of those costs will be.”
Mr Schaper suggested small businesses monitor their costs carefully, revise their cost structures accordingly, and, most importantly, be really clear to customers about why they’re raising prices.
He also said it was worth contacting suppliers about what impact the carbon tax would have, as they should have a better sense of what costs will flow through.
To counter this uncertainty, the Council of Small Business Australia has created a ‘carbon tax calculator’, which uses Treasury figures to estimate the minimum increase across various business costs.
The CCI’s June quarter survey of business expectations revealed only 16 per cent of Western Australian businesses were able to pass cost increases onto their customers.
“There are only really a handful of areas where the carbon price has driven costs up, electricity is the obvious one and landfill and refrigerant gasses were the two next highest rating areas,” Mr Schaper said.
“Refrigerant gas is an internationally traded commodity and the reason the price has gone up so steeply is due to not only the carbon price, but stockpiling locally and overseas, and growth in South-East Asian demand.”
WA Auto director Richard Whiteley said an increase in car air-conditioner gas from $310 last month to $930 this month had already deterred customers, while Vee Jay Fisheries owner Vic Binding said gas prices had risen from $22/kg to $236/kg for the high carbon emitting R507 gas variant and $22/kg to $100/kg for the cleaner R22 variant.