Competition Law

Australian Competition Law and Policy Discussion

Posts Tagged ‘Competition Policy’

ACCC releases new Compliance and Enforcement Policy

Posted by Julie Clarke on 21 February 2013

The ACCC’s new Compliance and Enforcement Policy was released today, outlining ‘the ACCC’s priority areas for the year and sets out the factors to be taken into account when deciding whether to pursue matters.’ The document itself runs to 5 pages (including a cover page). View press release. View Sims’ speech, launching the new policy, at a CEDA function in Sydney. There is nothing much new on the competition law front, other than Sims’ repeated promise that we can expect ‘an increase its rate of intervention in competition matters’ by the ACCC. Reference to prioritising concentrated sectors, particularly supermarkets and fuel also came as no surprise.

In his speech Sims spoke a bit about mergers (there is not a single reference to mergers in the Policy document itself). He noted that ‘ACCC has responded to calls by   the trade practices and business community for increased transparency   and engagement with the ACCC during the course of merger reviews’, but also noted that the ‘increased level of transparency and engagement must, however, slow the process down’ (it has been widely observed tha the process has slowed since the Metcash decision; see, for example, ‘Howzat! The War on Mergers‘ from the crew at State of Competition).  In his speech he went on to say that the ACCC is revising its Informal Merger Process Guidelines and will be consulting with stakeholders on a revised draft in the coming months.

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No new competition minister

Posted by Julie Clarke on 20 September 2010

I leave the country for two weeks and return to find no more competition minister.  I’m confident there is no correlation between the two, but just to be safe I’ll stay in the country for a while.

Labor once proudly touted the fact that it appointed a dedicated competition minister.  This was watered down in the previous ministerial shake-up when Dr Craig Emerson MP replaced Chris Bowen MP as competition and consumer minister – the competition portfolio was then one of only three held by the minister (whose title was: ‘Minister for Small Business, Independent Contractors and the Service Economy; Minister for Competition Policy and Consumer Affairs AND Minister Assisting the Finance Minister on Deregulation).  Now the portfolio has been eliminated completely.  Instead, responsibility has been merged into Treasurer Wayne Swan’s portfolio, assisted by new Parliamentary Secretary for Treasury, David Bradbury MP.  It is now the Liberal Party that have a Shadow Competition Minister in Bruce Billson MP (although that portfolio appears inextricably linked to the small business portfolio which, based on election rhetoric, could have risked some ill-directed reviews of competition policy).

Perhaps Labor thinks the hard work for the competition and consumer minister is done, with the introduction of criminal penalties for cartels (completing the suite of Dawson Review reforms) and the introduction of the national consumer law.  It may also suggest that major reviews or changes to the law are not planned during the term of the current government, arguably reducing the need for a dedicated minister.  This would be welcome news – the dust needs to settle on some major reforms before any meaningful review can be conducted.  However, the implementation of some of the  most radical reforms in competition and consumer policy should justify some dedicated ministerial oversight.  The role of effective competition policy in bolstering economic recovery could also justify a dedicated competition portfolio.

It remains to be seen whether the ministerial slight of competition policy will have any impact.  Labor argues that, as the Treasurer will now have prime responsibility for competition policy, the portfolio was actually being upgraded and not downgraded. However, The Australian’s Paul Kelly, was appropriately cynical and decided it may be ‘best to suspend judgment on this front.’  While a rush to judgment on the impact of the change may be unwise, it is difficulty to imagine how removal of a dedicated portfolio can be good for competition policy.

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Emerson: Labor is the Party of Competition

Posted by Julie Clarke on 2 September 2009

On Monday the Hon Dr Craig Emerson MP, Minister for Competition (among other things), delivered a speech tot he Committee for Economic Development of Australia outlining Labor’s approach to competition and consumer policy.

The discussion of competition policy is very good.  In the context of competition law and proposed amendments Emerson discusses the ‘Blacktown Amendment’, proposed by Senator’s Joyce and Xenophon, which proposes to make unlawful the selling of the same product at different prices within a 35km radius.  Emerson is highly critical of the bill, claiming Adam Smith would have described it as ‘a conspiracy against the poor’ and suggesting the description would not ‘be too far off the mark’.  The speech is highly critical of protectionist policies generally and notes that policy proposals ‘that are pro-competitive will get a sympathetic hearing [from the Government] while those that are anti-competitive will be listened to with great precaution and examined with the most suspicious attention’.

Emerson also notes, in the context of competition policy, the Government proposals to ‘improve the timeliness and effectiveness of decision-making process under the national access regime …’

No mention is made of the current reviews into creeping acquisitions and the meaning of ‘understanding’.

Despite the title of the speech, Emerson also spends some time discussing current and future reforms to Consumer law, including the unfair terms provisions, the current review into the unconscionable conduct provisions of the TPA and the proposed additional powers for the ACCC and ASIC to seek civil penalties under the Australian Consumer Law.

Worth a read.

View speech.

Posted in Competition Policy, Legislation (TPA/CCA), Speeches | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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