Business groups unite to strengthen competition laws

An alliance of more than 20 peak business bodies is calling on the federal Government to now enact changes to the laws governing the misuse of market power, following the end of a series of consultations held by Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Small Business Kelly O’Dwyer.

The unprecedented alliance, formed in October 2015, includes such bodies as the Australian Convenience and Petroleum Marketers Association, Australian Retailers Association, COSBOA, and MGA Independent Retailers.

The business alliance notes that it is now almost one year since the federal Government-appointed Harper Panel Review into Competition Policy, which, after lengthy and exhaustive consultations, made its final report on March 31, 2015. The panel, comprising independent experts, recommended changes to s46, including the introduction of an effects test.

In a group statement, the business alliance said all businesses, large or small, should be able to engage in rigorous competition based on their merits.

“For this to be achieved, section 46 of the CCA must be strengthened,” it stated. “There is a serious deficiency in the competition dynamic in Australia. We urgently need a practical mechanism to ensure healthy competition in markets comprising business enterprises of all sizes.”

The proposed amendment would alter section 46 of the Competition and Consumer Act to read: “A corporation that has a substantial degree of power in a market shall not engage in conduct that has the purpose, effect or likely effect of substantially lessening competition in that or any other market.”

According to the alliance, the proposed amendment will mean more competition, a better deal for Australian consumers and improvements to productivity, innovation and entrepreneurship.

“We urge the federal Government to now act on a reform which is good public policy and in the national interest,” the alliance said. “We urge the government not to further succumb to the interests of an elite group of the country’s very biggest businesses, which has become accustomed to getting its own way.”

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