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Australian consumer watchdog calls for tougher penalties

[SYDNEY] The chief of Australia's competition watchdog has called for penalties to be increased tenfold for consumer law breaches.

Rod Sims, chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, told The Weekend Australian newspaper he wanted fines for breaching consumer laws to be raised from A$1.1 million (S$1.13 million) to A$10 million, in line with penalties levied for breaching the Competition Act.

"$1.1 million is especially low when you're dealing with these large companies," Mr Sims said.

Mr Sims has run the ACCC since August 2011 and has been nominated by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull for another three-year term at its helm.

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His nomination needs support from a majority of states and territories to succeed.

Mr Sims also said he supported a government proposal to reform competition laws and reduce the ability of big businesses to monopolise markets.

That proposal, to implement a so-called "effects test," was recommended as part of a broad economic review produced last year for the government of former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who was ousted by Mr Turnbull in a party coup in September.