Welcome to Australian Competition Law
Latest Competition Law News and Commentary
5 May 2016 - ACCC will not oppose AB InBev's acquisition of SABMIller
3 May 2016 - Budget day
The Budget and related speech is available on the government's budget site. See, for example:
The budget papers include reference to the Harper Review; under Jobs and Growth the Government notes it is 'advancing the recommendations of the Harper Competition Policy Review and (in bold print no less) notes that the government is 'strengthening Australian's competition law to prevent big businesses from misusing their market power or seeking to dominate markets.' (see full PDF segment)
For media, see for example Alan Mitchell, 'Budget 2016: More like pre-election pussy footing than an economic plan' (AFR, 3 May 2016), Tim Leslie, Paul Donoughue and Simon Elvery, 'Budget 2016: Winner and losers' (ABC, 3 May 2016).
2 May 2016 - Halliburton terminates proposed deal with Baker Hughes
The ACCC has discontinued its informal review of Halliburton's proposed acquisition of Baker Hughes Inc after Halliburton advised the proposed acquisition would not be proceeding. The ACCC had issued a statement of issues in relation to the proposed acquisition in October last year. See merger register. See also Aoife White, 'Halliburton-Baker Hughes Deal Collapses Amid Global Opposition' (Bloombert, 2 May 2016), Amie Tsang, 'Morning Agenda: Halliburton and Baker Hughes Call Off Merger' (New York Times, 2 May 2016) and 'Oilfiled services provider Halliburton terminates $28b merger with Baker Hughes' (EBR, 2 May 2016)
2 May 2016 - Budget eve
On budget-eve 2016 Peter Martin reports on how the budgets of ACCC and other regulates have fared under the current government - he notes that the ACCC has lost 10% of staff over the past three years.
30 April 2016 - Media on Cement Australia
There has been some limited media following the Federal Court's order of penalties totaling $18.6m against Cement Australia (and related companies) yesterday for contraventions of s 45 of the (then) Trade Practices Act.
Most notable is John Durie, 'Politics triumphs over principles in Kidman decision' (The Australian, 30 April 2016) (various issues discussed - scroll down), who labels the fine imposed by Justice Greenwood a 'slap on the wrist' (particularly in light of the fact that the ACCC had sought $97m in penalties) and who considers (with some justification) the delay in handing down the decision a 'disgrace'. He further noted that the reasons for decision (still unavailable until confidentiality issues are resolved) run to 250 pages (admittedly less than the 940 odd pages of the primary judgment). See also Mark Ludlow, 'ACCC delivers $40m in penalties in three days' (AFR, 29 April 2016).
29 April 2016 - $18.6m penalties ordered against Cement Australia companies for competition law contravention
The Federal Court has ordered penalties totalling $18.6m against Cement Australia and related companies for contravening s 45 of the (then) Trade Practices Act. So far the judgment has been made available to the parties on a 'restricted basis pending resolution of confidentiality issues'. See ACCC press release. See also Anna MacDonald, 'Cement companies fined $18.62m for anti-competitive conduct (ABC News, 29 April 2016)
29 April 2016 - First report on NBN wholesale market released
The ACCC had released NBN Co's wholesale market indicators report, required to be provided pursuant to a disclosure direction issued by the ACCC on 21 March. The next report will be published in late July 2016. See ACCC press release for overview and key findings. See also NBN Wholesale Market Indicators Report page.
Competition Policy Review (Harper)
The first major review of competition policy in Australia was conducted in 2014-2015 with the final report released on 31 March 2015. The Government has accepted many of the recommendations and draft legislation is expected later in 2016.
Misuse of market power
Always topical, the issue of misuse of market power featured prominently in the Harper Review, with the Panel recommending introduction of an effects test. In March 2016 the Government announced that it would introduce an effects test consistent with the Harper Panel's recommendation.
The decision in CFMEU cast doubt on the ability of the ACCC to negotiate 'agreed penalties' with respondents to proceedings under the CCA; on 9 December 2015 the High Court overturned this decision with the result that parties may continue to negotiate and submit agreed penalties to the Court.
Cartels and agency arrangements
The 2013 arguably inconsistent outcomes in the ANZ and Flight Centre cases in 2013 led to some uncertainty about the circumstances in which agents may be considered in competition with their principals for purposes of the cartel laws. The appeal decisions in both cases were handed down on 31 July 2015. The ACCC has been granted special leave to appeal the Flight Centre decision to the High Court.
Resale Price Maintenance
ACCC and Informed Sources
In 2014 the ACCC instituted proceedings against Informed Sources and several petrol retailers alleging contravention of s 45. In December 2016 the ACCC announced it had resolved these proceedings after Informed Sources and the retailers agreed to make pricing information available to consumers at the same time the retailers receive it.
Images copyright: Images in the Hot Topic section (left column): male runner on starting blocks courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net; gas pump filling nozzles courtesy of Rawich at FreeDigitalPhotos.net and price magnifier definition means promotions and savings courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.(right column): business man and stock graph report courtesy of watcharakun at FreeDigitalPhotos.net; vacations computer key courtesy of Stuart Miles (Image ID: 10091676) at FreeDigitalPhotos.net; handshaking courtesy of Photokanok at FreeDigitalPhotos.net,