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Latest Australian Competition Law News and Commentary
16 February 2016 - Senate Economics Committee gives green light to effects test
I've posted a blog piece providing an overview and some commentary on today's Senate Economics Committee report on the misuse of market power bill. See Julie Clarke, 'Senate Committee Gives Green Light to Effects Test' (Australian Competition Law Blog, 16 February 2017).
16 February 2017 - Senate Economics Committee recommends passage of misuse of market power bill
The Senate Economics Committee today released its report on the Competition and Consumer Amendment (Misuse of Market Power) Bill 2016 which will, amongst other things, introduce an effects test into Australia's abuse of power laws.
Labor senators dissented, claiming the effects test is 'a particularly dangerous economic policy'. Nick Xenophon, while 'broadly' supporting the committee recommendations, offered some additional comments, including once again calling for introduction of divestiture powers for breaching the misuse of market power provision. Further details to follow on my report page.
13 February 2017 - Banks' submission in ApplePay authorisation claim published
John Durie's latest column discusses the banks' submission responding to the ACCC's draft decision denying it authorisation to collectively negotiate with Apple over ApplePay. See John Durie, 'Banks stake out Apple Pay battleground in ACCC submission' (The Australian, 13 February 2017). See generally authorisation register.
9 February 2017 - Sims confirms its review of the BP's takeover of Woolworths petrol station will be a long one
In an interview with the Australian, ACCC Chairman Rod Sims, has confirmed that the upcoming review of BP’s $1.8b acquisition of 527 Woolworths petrol station and convenience sites (announced in late December 2016) will be lengthy, with local competition issues to be assessed for all of the stations stations will need to be assessed. For more details see Matt Chambers, 'ACCC’s Sims: review of BP stations deal will be long' (The Australian, 9 February 2017).
9 February 2017 - ACCC will not oppose Ruralco’s proposed acquisition of TP Jones
8 February 2017 - Apple versus the banks ... Apple goes on the attack
Plenty of media this week generated by Apple's latest submission in response to the application by Commonwealth Bank, Westpac, NAB and Bendigo and Adelaide Bank's for authorisation to collectively bargain with and boycott Apple in relation to Apple Pay.
In November last year the ACCC issued a draft determination proposing to deny authorisation to the banks; however, it also noted that its draft decision was 'finely balanced'.
Apple's latest submission is in response to the draft determination. It concludes bluntly that it is Apple's view that the application by the banks 'is not primarily about NFC access' but rather is 'fundamentally about the applicant banks avoiding paying Apple fees for use of Apple Pay ... or specifically charging their cardholders for that use to discourage consumer use of Apple Pay and thereby reduce competition with their own proprietary wallets.' Authorisation would, Apple argues, produce no public benefit but only private benefit to the banks by allowing them to 'continue to free-ride on the significant investments made by Apple ... specifically in this case on the underlying technology installed on Apple devices to facilitate NFC payments without paying any fees for transactions processed via Apple Pay's secure element infrastructure ...'
For some more detail see my blog post. For a sample of recent media on this see, for example, James Eyers, 'Apple claims banks want digital wallets as a new revenue source' (AFR, 5 February 2017); Ariel Bogle, 'Apple's fight with big banks is getting even nastier, and it was already nasty' (MashableUK, 6 February 2017); Asha McLean, 'Apple argues Australian bank bargaining cartel is centred on fee avoidance' (ZDNet, 6 February 2017).
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 exposure draft legislation was released on 5 September 2016. The MMP bill was released 1 December; remaining reforms are expected to appear in a separate bill early 2017.
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 and a slightly modified version appeared in a bill released 1 December 2016. On 16 February 2017 the Senate Eco Committee recommended passage of the bill.
First criminal cartel case
On 14 July 2016 the Commonwealth Director of public prosecutions filed an indictment against Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha in the Federal Court of Australia. This represents the first case alleging a contravention of the criminal cartel laws introduced in Australia in 2009. NYK pleaded guilty to criminal cartel conduct on 18 July 2016.
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 successfully appealed the Flight Centre decision to the High Court (decision of 14 December 2016)
Resale Price Maintenance
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.
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,