Martin Foley MP for Albert Park asks the ACCC for answers regarding Dally Messenger III
Mr Rod Sims
Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Level 35, 360 Elizabeth Street
MELBOURNE VIC 3OOO
August 28, 2015
Dear Mr Sims
RE: DALLY MESSENGER III
I write on behalf of Mr Dally Messenger, a retired civil celebrant living in my electorate, who has contacted my office regarding historical legal action taken against him by the ACCC.
For a full history of the matter I refer you to the enclosed extract from the Commonwealth Parliamentary Debates in which former Senator Judith Troeth outlined the history succinctly. ln her speech, Senator Troeth asked the commission to have a second look at Mr Messenger's case, which as far as I am aware it has not done so.
Mr Messenger, an old age pensioner with limited means, was in no position to mount an effective legal defence. Mr Messenger informs me that his mostly pro-bono legal support made it very clear to him that the ACCC could prolong a series of legal cases at great personal and financial cost.
He was persuaded to negotiate a settlement with the ACCC and agree that he attempted to fix prices in the funeral industry-a claim that he maintains is absurd given that he was only representing some twenty celebrants out of the 2,500 or so appointed at the time.
Moreover, Mr Messenger presented abundant evidence that others in the industry then, as now, largely control the fees for the funeral industry. The suggestion that one nominal spokesperson for a small number of celebrants would be in a position to fix prices then and now is absurd.
ln any case, the fine of $47,000 imposed on Mr Messenger was, given the circumstances, manifestly excessive.
Mr Messenger continues to have no idea why the ACCC issued proceedings against him without some sort of preliminary due process and examination of his evidence.
I understand that his FOI requests, aimed at investigating which party brought this matter to the attention of the commission, have been repeatedly refused.
The actions of the ACCC in this matter have had a very bad effect on the general public. Celebrants, I am told, now live in fear of charging more than the Funeral Directors set fee. The accusation against Mr Messenger has seen celebrants conclude that the ACCC supports big business, namely the Funeral Directors.
I would ask, as has been done so already by former Senator Troeth, the ACCC to reconsider this matter and reflect on whether taking action against Mr Messenger was justified and fair, and whether the penalty imposed on Mr Messenger was manifestly excessive.
Martin Foley MP
Victorian Labor Member for Albert Park
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