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Latest Australian Competition Law News and Commentary

Easter eggs

23 April 2018 - Digital Platforms Inquiry submissions filtering out

There's plenty of media today relating to the ACCC's Digital Platforms Inquiry following the release of a number of submissions (not yet on the ACCC Inquiry page).

Public submissions include:

Google
(related blog: Hason Pellegrino, 'Consumers will determine the future of news' (23 April 2018))

Free TV
(related media release: 'Free TV calls for ACCC oversight of Facebook and Google (20 April 2018))

MEAA (Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance)
(related media release: MEAA submission to the ACCC inquiry into digital platforms (10 April 2018))

No doubt there are more I've missed; I will add links to submissions as I find them on my Digital Platforms Inquiry page.

For media see, for example:

 

Increase penalties target

23 April 2018 - Sims on penalties

ACCC Chairman, Rod Sims, is talking penalties again in the context of investigating competition in the financial system, arguing for penalties in hundreds of millions of dollars.

See Richard Gluyas, 'ACCC plan for fines worth hundreds of millions of dollars' (The Australian, 23 April 2018).

See also 'Australia needs tougher penalties for banks, financial institutions, ACCC says' (RN Breakfast, ABC, 23 April 2018) (includes audio download) and AAP, 'ACCC boss backs massive fines for banks' (9 News, 23 April 2018).

 

ACCC Commissioners

19 April 2018 - New ACCC Deputy Chair and commissioner reappointments

Treasurer Scott Morrison has announced the appointment of Mick Keogh OAM as Deputy Chair of the ACCC for a five year period beginning at the end of May. Commissioner Keogh, who was appointed the ACCC's Agriculture Commissioner in 2016, will oversee the ACCC's small business work in addition to agricultural work.

Cristina Cifuentes and Sarah Court have been re-appointed for a further five years.

See ACCC media release and ACCC details of Chair & Commissioners.

See Scott Morrison press release announcing appointments.

Images (c) Commonwealth of Australia. Reproduced pursuant to CC BY 3.0 AU licence

 

Lifesaver in pool

19 April 2018 - ACCC will not oppose Zodiac/Fluidra deal

The ACCC has announced it will not oppose the proposed merger of Piscine Luxembourg Holdings (Zodiac) and Fluidra SA, both global companies supplying residential swimming pool equipment.

The ACCC found that, although the deal combines would give the combined company significant market share in relation to some products in Australia, remaining competitors would provide sufficient post-merger competitive constraint.

See media release.

See merger register.

See Fluidra + Zodiac's 2017 You Tube announcement of merger.

 

Microphone

6 April 2018 - New podcast on civil penalties for cartel conduct in Australia

A new podcast has been published featuring Prof Caron Beaton-Wells (Director, Competition Law and Economics Network, Melbourne Law School) and authors of the recent OECD Report on Pecuniary Penalties for Competition Law Infringements in Australia, Sean Ennis and Pedro Caro de Sousa. The podcast includes discussion of the importance of pecuniary penalties for cartel conduct and consideration of how Australia's penalty levels and processes compare with other comparable OECD jurisdictions (not well ...). The podcast runs for just under 30 minutes.

 

View embedded podcast or view podcast page which includes a description of the podcast and links to related material.

 

Cargo

5 April 2018 - Another shipping company pleads guilty to criminal cartel conduct

Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha (K-line), a Japan-based shipping company, today entered a guilty plea in relation to criminal cartel conduct.

This is the second guilty plea in relation to criminal cartel conduct, with Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha (NYK) pleading guilty in 2016 and receiving a $25m fine in 2017.

A sentencing hearing is scheduled for 15-16 November.

See ACCC media release.

See my case page for further details.

 

Synchronised swimming
Image source: By Jesus de Blas (Russia) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

5 April 2018 - Synchronised swimming versus competition in banking

Someone's having fun with metaphors at the ACCC. In a speech to the AFR Banking and Weath Summit today titled 'Synchronised swimming versus competition in banking', ACCC Chairman, Rod Sims, spoke about the findings of the ACCC's interim report relating to the Residential Mortgage Price Inquiry and data as a driver of competition and stability in the abnking sector.

See Sims, 'Synchronised swimming versus competition in banking' (Speech to AFR Banking and Wealth Summit, 5 April 2018).

 

Data cable

5 April 2018 - ACCC releases final report on communications market

The ACCC has published the final report of its communications sector market study.

The report includes 28 recommentations and actions relating to competition and consumer issues.

See ACCC media release.

See report page.

 

Wing of aeroplane

4 April 2018 - Flight Centre ordered to pay $12.5m in penalties for attempted price fixing

The Full Federal Court has ordered Flight Centre to pay penalties of $12.5 m for attempting to induce international airlines to enter price fixing agreements.

When the matter first went to trial a penalty of $11m was imposed. The matter was appealed on issues of liability and penalty. The liability issue was appealed through the the High Court which delivered judgment in favour of the ACCC in December 2016. In May 2017 the Full Federal Court heard the penalty appeal and cross appeal. Almost a year later the penalty order was handed down.

See ACCC media release.

See case page.

 

Cow relaxing

4 April 2018 - ACCC gives green light to Saputo's proposed acquisition of Murray Goulburn

The ACCC will not oppose Saputo's proposed acquisition of Murray Goulburn's assets 'after accepting a court enforcemable undertaking from Saputo to divest Murray Goulburn's Koroit plant'.

See ACCC media release.

See Saputo-MG merger register.

See also Samantha Bailey, 'ACCC says Saputo promise to sell Koroit plant clears Murray Goulburn takeover' (The Australian, 4 April 2018), Warwick Long, 'ACCC approves Murray Goulburn sale to Saputo minus the Koroit factory' (ABC, 4 April 2018) and 'ACCC won't block Saputo, but Koroit must go' (The Australian Dairyfarmer, 4 April 2018).

 

computer screens - online learning

30 March 2018 - Studying competition law online

Born in the Amazon, working in East-Timor and studying at the University of Melbourne - George Da Silva discusses his expereinces as an online student in Melbourne Law School's Global Competition and Consumer Law Program.

 

Ball bearings

29 March 2018 - ACCC will not oppose proposed acquisition of Donhad by Moly-Cop

The ACCC announced this morning that it would not oppose Moly-Cop’s proposed acquisition of Donhad. Although Donhad and Moly-Cop are the only two domestic manufacturers of forged steel grinding media, the ACCC found that, on balance, the proposed acquisition would be unlikely to substantially lessen competition in the supply of grinding media in Australia, in part because imports now represent 40% of total steel grinding media sold in Australia.

See ACCC, 'ACCC will not oppose Moly-Cop’s proposed acquisition of Donhad' (Media Release, 29 March 2018)

See Merger Register: Moly-Cop - proposed acquisition of Donhad

 

Gas fire

29 March 2018 - ACCC allows joint marketing of NT gas

The ACCC has authorised joint marketing agreements for gas between Central Petroleum and Macquarie Mereenie which will, according to ACCC Chairman, Rod Sims, allow 'further conventional gas in the Mereenie field to be developed sooner than it otherwise would'.

See ACCC media release: ACCC allows joint marketing of NT gas

See Authorisation register: Central and Macquarie Mereenie

 

Hand pointing at software

29 March 2018 - ACCC issues Statement of Issues in relation to MYOB's proposed acquisition of Reckon assets

The ACCC has issued a Statement of Issues outlining concerns with MYOB's proposed acquisition of Reckon's Accountants Group.

ACCC Commissioner, Roger Featherston, said:

'If MYOB acquired Reckon’s Accountants Group, it would likely be the only supplier of practice software suitable for medium to large accounting firms ...

'If MYOB has a monopoly on this software, it would substantially lessen competition. We think there’s a significant risk for customers that prices will increase and service levels will decrease.'

See ACCC, 'ACCC concerned with MYOB acquisition of Reckon assets' (Media Release, 29 March 2018)

See Merger Register: MYOB Group Limited - proposed acquisition of Reckon Limited's Practice Management Group

 

Cow relaxing

28 March 2018 - ACCC postpones decision on Saputo's proposed acquisition of Murray Goulburn's operating assets

The ACCC has postponed its final decision on Saputo's proposed acquisition ot acquire Murray Goulburn's operating assets to allow parteis to consider feedback received from market participants on the undertaking proposed by Saputo. The new proposed announcement date is the morning of 4 April 2018.

View merger register: Saputo Dairy Australia Pty Ltd proposes to acquire Murray Goulburn's operating assets.

See also: John Durie, 'ACCC delays decision over Saputo plan to buy Murray Goulburn' (The Australian, 28 March 2018), Andrew Marshall, 'ACCC still mulling dairy feedback on Saputo's MG takeover bid' (North Queensland Register, 28 March 2018), 'ACCC told to butt out of Saputo-MG deal' (The Australian Dairyfarmer, 29 March 2018)

 

Microphone

28 March 2018 - Penalties for competition law infringements in Australia

Two of the authors of the OECD, Pecuniary Penalties for Competition Law Infringements in Australia (26 March 2018) report, Sean Ennis and Pedro Carodesousa, presented their work at the Melbourne Law School's Competition Law and Economics Network discussion group today March.

Details, including presentation slides and related papers can be found on the CLEN website: Civil Penalties for Cartel Conduct: An OECD Review of the Australian Regime.

A copy of the report and related presentations made at Monday's OECD Workshop can be found on the Workshop home page. This includes the Keynote presentation by Frédéric Jenny, presentations by John Connor and Caron Beaton-Wells and a paper by Sir Marcus Smith.

 See also the ACCC's media release in response to the release of the report and a speech by the ACCC Chairman:

Rod Sims, 'Release of the OECD's Penalties for Competition Law Infringements in Australia report' (Workshop on Australian Pecuniary Penalties for Competition Law Infringements, Sydney, 26 March 2018)

 

Brisbane skyline 2018

27 March 2018 - 'Cartels, Optimal Enforcement and Theories in Competition Law' Symposium

A wonderful symposium was held today in memory of the research of Laura Guttuso.

The focus of the symposium was cartels and, particularly, effective cartel enforcement.

Congratulations to Dr Barbora Jedlickova and her colleagues at the TC Beirne School of Law for organising the event.

Abstracts of the papers can be found here (abstracts) with full papers to be published in a special edition of the University of Queensland Law Journal later this year.

 

Report - data graphs

26 March 2018 - OECD releases pecuniary penalties report

The OECD today released its report, Pecuniary Penalties for Competition Law Infringements in Australia. The report, prepared by Pedro Caro de Sousa, Sean Ennis and Semin Park, of the OECD's Competition Division, compares pecuniary sanctions for competition law infringements in Australia to that of other major OECD jurisdictions.

The report concludes that 'Australia is an outlier' in relation to 'how low the pecuniary penalties it imposes are by comparison to all other systems'. Several possible explanations for this are discussed. In particular, the report details the different approach Australia takes to determining pecuniary penalties when compared with other jurisdictions. It recommends Australia consider action to 'ensure pecuniary penalties better deter anticompetitive conduct' (p 8)

OECD ReportSee OECD, Pecuniary Penalties for Competition Law Infringements in Australia (26 March 2018)

The report is being presented at a closed OECD workshop in Sydney today: Workshop on Australian Pecuniary Penalties for Competition Law Infringements.

Two of the authors of the report, Sean Ennis and Pedro Carodesousa, will be presenting at the Melbourne Law School's Competition Law and Economics Network discussion group on 28 March. This will be followed by commentary from Professor Caron Beaton-Wells and me. Register here!

See also:

 

qantas-emirates

23 March 2018 - ACCC re-authorises Qantas/Emirates alliance

The ACCC has granted re-authorisation to the Qantas/Emirates alliance for five years, subject to a condition in relation to the Sydney/Christchurch route.

The re-authorisation follows a draft decision to re-authorise in February.

See authorisation register for details.

See also

 

Data - binary code

20 March 2018 - Kemp and Nicholls to lead new 'Data as a Source of Market Power' research stream

On 14 March UNSW has launched 'The Allens Hub for Technology, Law & Innovation'. The hub includes ten research streams.

Dr Katharine Kemp and Dr Rod Nicholls will lead the research stream 'Data as a source of market power', focusing on the research question 'can control of data create market power?' and the issues that flow from a 'yes' response.

 

Lady Justice holding scales of justice

15 March 2018 - Country Care cartel case to be heard in Melbourne

The Mildura Magistrate's Court has ordered that the committal hearing in relation to two individuals charged with cartel conduct should take place in the Melbourne Magistrates' Court.

The AFR reports that County Care managing director Robert Hogan and former busienss development manager, Cameron Harrison, are each facing dozens of charges relating to cartel conduct, including in the form of bid rigging and price fixing.

A committal mention is listed for 6 June.

See

 

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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.

 

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