Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Retailers welcome new era in competition law

The Competition and Consumer Amendment (Competition Policy Review) Bill passed parliament this week, following the Competition and Consumer Amendment (Misuse of Market Power) Bill 2017, which was passed in August.

The Competition Policy Review legislation contains a broad range of amendments to the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 in areas including cartels, price signalling and concerted practices, exclusionary provisions, third-line forcing, resale-price maintenance, merger and non-merger authorisations, notifications and class exemptions, access and evidentiary provisions.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Chair Rod Sims says the reforms to the misuse-of-market-power prohibition and the new prohibition of anti-competitive concerted practices will improve the ACCC’s ability to target conduct harming the economy.

“These new laws have far-reaching implications for the Australian economy and should significantly boost growth,” he said. “The Harper review recommended these changes to enhance the benefits that should flow to consumers and businesses when markets operate efficiently.”

Master Grocers Australia CEO Jos de Bruin says the new laws cover many areas of competition reform, including strengthening the prohibition of market-power misuse by big businesses.

“Of important significance for independent supermarket retailers (family enterprises and private businesses) is the much-awaited introduction of the effects test, which will prevent those with a substantial degree of market power from exercising that power to lessen competition,” he said.

“On behalf of thousands of independent retailers, MGA thanks the Coalition government and all those who saw the importance of making these necessary amendments to the competition laws. These include ministers such as Barnaby Joyce, Matthew Canavan, Michael McCormack, Kelly O’Dwyer, the former federal minister Bruce Billson and, of course, Rod Sims and all at the ACCC.

“The new competition laws will ensure that a level playing field is available for businesses in the future regardless of their size.”

To facilitate effective compliance with, and enforcement of the legislation, the ACCC has established a ‘substantial lessening of competition’ (SLC) unit, which will be responsible for misuse-of-market-power and concerted-practice investigations and litigation within the ACCC.

The unit will soon release guidance on the new misuse-of-market-power and concerted-practice provisions to help businesses understand and comply with these new laws.

The Competition Policy Review legislation and the Misuse of Market Power legislation are scheduled to take effect in the coming weeks.

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