As the brand new Parliament prepares to sit down, it’s helpful to think about the brand new Labor Authorities’s key focus areas for competitors coverage (click on right here and right here). These adjustments are supposed to additional strengthen shopper and small enterprise rights and deter competitors legislation breaches.
Labor’s appointment of an economics professor, Dr Andrew Leigh, to Assistant Treasurer (with obligations for competitors coverage) indicators its resolve to implement important reforms to competitors and shopper legal guidelines.
The Labor Authorities has not but commented particularly on its urge for food for merger reforms. Nonetheless, in keeping with its view that Australia has a “competitors downside”, it might nicely assist a stricter, necessary merger clearance regime as was advocated by former ACCC Chair, Rod Sims. Solely time will inform whether or not that is certainly the case.
Growing most penalties from AU$10 million to AU$50 million for anti-competitive behaviour
Whereas Australia already has important most penalties for competitors and shopper legislation breaches (together with as much as 10% of firm’s turnover), the OECD discovered (in 2018) that in truth, penalties in Australia are considerably decrease than in comparable jurisdictions.
With this background and Labor’s view that “Australia has a contest downside”, the brand new Authorities is searching for to discourage anticompetitive conduct by a 5 fold improve within the most penalty.
This will likely additionally set off higher compliance efforts, and maybe extra companies contemplating immunity / cooperation with the ACCC, triggering extra investigations/courtroom proceedings – in addition to higher use of the authorisation and notification searching for safety for conduct that will have financial profit.
It’s unclear whether or not this can apply to breaches of the Australian Client Regulation.
Introducing a ‘Tremendous Grievance’ perform inside the ACCC
That is supposed to permit choose shopper teams resembling CHOICE and enterprise sector advocacy teams to direct the ACCC to analyze severe complaints of alleged breaches of competitors and shopper legal guidelines. It’s impressed by related mechanisms within the UK the place the Competitors and Market Authority should set out the way it proposes to progress a grievance made by designated shopper teams inside 90 days of receipt of the grievance.
The ACCC beforehand opposed this mechanism because it thought of the ACCC already had applicable complaints seize processes.
If applied, this may increasingly result in market research performed by the ACCC (as has occurred within the UK) and should improve the frequency of ‘trade large’ crackdowns/enforcement.
Making unfair contract phrases (UCT) unlawful
The Labor Authorities particularly famous its assist for making UCT unlawful and broadening its protection to small companies with fewer than 100 employees or a turnover of lower than AU$10 million
Companies ought to evaluate their contractual preparations (having regard to the broader cohort of counterparties which are more likely to be lined by the brand new UCT regime).