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15 April 2019 - Interagency cooperation agreement between ACCC and FBI

The ACCC and US FBI have signed a new memorandum of cooperation (MOC) to 'strengthen the agencies' joint efforts in combating cartels and other anti-competitive behaviour'.

The MOC 'provides for the exchange of expertise and staff between the two agencies to enhance work in the detection, investigation and prosecution of criminal competition offences'.

See ACCC, 'ACCC and FBI sign inter-agency cooperation agreement' (15 April 2019)

 

Exchange rates

11 April 2019 - Charges laid in relation to alleged forex price fixing cartel

Criminal cartel charges have been laid 'against a money tranfer business and five individuals for allegedly fixing the Australian dollar / Vietnamese dong exchange rate and fees they charge their customers'. This relates to exchange rates and fees charged between 2011 to 2016.

Charges were filed in the Magistrates' Court of Victoria. The committal mention has been set for July 18.

See ACCC, 'Charges laid against alleged forex price fixing cartel' (Media Release, 11 April 2019).

See also:

 

Brain thinking

9 April 2019 - ACCC preparing guidelines following removal of IP exemption

The ACCC has advised that it is drafting guidelines on the application of Part IV of the CCA to intellectual property following the removal of the exemption in s 51(3) that will commence on 13 September 2019.

See ACCC update.

 

Microphone

5 April 2019 - Caron Beaton-Wells appointed to Australian Competition Tribunal

Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg MP, today announced the appointment of Professor Caron Beaton-Wells as a lay member of the Australian Competition Tribunal for a period of five years.

Professor Beaton-Wells is Director of the Competition Law and Economics Network and the Global Competition and Consumer Law Program at the University of Melbourne. She will join Mr RF Shogren, Mr R Steinwell, Dr D Abraham and Prof K Davis as the other lay members of the Tribunal which is presided over by Justice John Middleton.

See Josh Frydenberg MP, 'Appointment to the Australian Competition Tribunal' (Media Release, 5 April 2019)

See Australian Competition Tribunal website.

 

Spreadsheet and calculator representing budget

4 April 2019 - ACCC's budget

The Treasury Portfolio budget statement on the ACCC is available here (PDF).

The papers show total departmental resourcing up from $250.7 million to $285.5 million and average staffing numbers up from 964 to 1,022 (total new departmental appropriations up from $210m to $235.1m).

Expenditure in relation to outcomes and planned performance is set out from page 83 of the document (the document itself is 24 pages, with numbering forming part of a broader portfolio document).

Outcome 1: Lawful competition, consumer protection, and regulated national infrastructure markets and services through regulation, including enforcement, education, price monitoring and determining the terms of access to infrastructure services.

Performance criteria for outcome 1 is set out in Table 2.2 and includes:

  • Target of 6 competition enforcement interventions (court proceeding commenced, s 87B undertaking accepted, admin resolutions)
  • Target of 80% of merger matters considered finalised by pre-assessment
  • Target of 100% of authorisation applications assessed within statutory timeframes
  • Target of 40 Australian Consumer Law enforcement interventions
  • [various other consumer, regulatory and monitoring targets]
  • Target of 3 completed market studies and inquiries.

 

Hand  pointing at binary code

3 April 2019 - ACCC ends probe into anti-competitive behaviour by 'big four'

The ACCC has 'not found sufficient evidence' to proceed with an investigation into Deloitte, EY, KPMG and PwC over allegations of "cartel-like behaviour".

In a letter this week ACCC Chairman, Rod Sims, wrote: 'On the information before it, the ACCC has not found evidence that provides a basis to take further investigative action with respect to the allegations at this time'.

See Edmund Tadros 'ACCC ends Labor-backed cartel probe against Deloitte, EY, KPMG, PwC' (AFR, 3 April 2019) and Danny McCance, 'ACCC drops Big Four "cartel" probe' (economia, 3 April 2019).

 

Penalty

30 March 2019 - Labor announces it will raise maximum penalties under the CCA if elected

Labor has announced it will raise penalties for competition and consumer law breaches if elected. In a joint press release issued by Chris Bowen MP (Shadow Treasurer), Madeleine King MP (Shadow Minister for Consumer Affairs) and Andrew Leigh MP (Shadow Assistant Treasurer and Shadow Minister for Competition and Productivity), Labor referred to last year's OECD report highlighting lower penalties in Australia compared with comparator jurisdictions and announced it would address this by raising the maximum penalties available for both competition and consumer law breaches. In particular, it will:

  • 'raise the maximum dollar penalty for companies that break competition laws and rip of consumers from $10 million to $50 million' and
  • 'adopt a higher standard for competition law breaches, being 30 per cent of the annual sales of the produce or service relating to the infringement, multiplied by the number of years the infringement took place', following the EU approach (this replaces the 'three times the value of the benefit received or 10% of annual turnover in preceding 12 months ...' maximum for competition law breaches)

See Chris Bowen MP, Madeleine King MP, Andrew Leigh MP, 'Tougher penalties for competition rip offs' (30March 2019)

 

Data watching

29 March 2019 - Consumer Data Right draft rules out

The ACCC has published draft rules fo rthe Consumer Data Rights.

'The CDR will allow consumers to easily obtain access to their banking data and have it transferred to service providers who they trust.'

See ACCC, Consumer Data Right draft rules out (Media release, 29 March 2019)

Draft rules can be found here: CDR draft rules (banking)

Submissions on the draft may be made until 10 May 2019: visit consultation hub.

 

Plasterboard

28 March 2019 - ACCC approves Knauf's acquisitions of USG and AWI subject to conditions

The ACCC has announced that it 'will not oppose Knauf’s proposed acquisitions of USG and Armstrong World Industries after accepting a court-enforceable undertaking from Knauf to divest assets'.

See ACCC media release, 'Knauf's acquisitions of USG and AWI conditionally approved' (28 March 2019)

See merger register: Gebr. Knauf KG - proposed acquisition of USG Corporation and Armstrong World Industries Pty Ltd

 

Motorcycle patent

28 March 2019 - ACCC will not oppose proposed IPH-Xenith acquisition

The ACCC has announced it will not oppose the proposed acquisition of Xenith IP Group Ltd by IPH Ltd, both holding companies of IP businesses.

Last week the ACCC announced it would not oppose the prosed merger of QANTM and Xenith. It made clear it considered these as alternative mergers; no approval is given for all three to merge.

See ACCC media release, 'ACCC will not oppose proposed IPH - Xenith acquisition' (28 March 2019)

See merger register: IPH Limited - proposed acquisition of Xenith IP Group Limited

 

 

Celebrating victory

27 March 2019 - ACCC Global Competition Agency of the Year

The ACCC has been awarded the 2019 Government Agency of the Year at the Global Competition Review 9th Annual Awards in Washington DC.

See ACCC, 'ACCC Global Competition Agency Of The Year' (Media Release, 27 March 2019)

 

Corporate handshake

27 March 2019 - Stephen Ridgeway set to be new mergers commissioner

The Australian's John Durie reports that Stephen Ridgeway is set to replace Roger Featherston as the ACCC's merger commissioner when his term ends in June (subject to approval of the appointment from state and federal governments).

See John Durie, 'Stephen Ridgeway set to be appointed ACCC mergers commissioner' (27 March 2019)

 

Motorcycle patent

21 March 2019 - ACCC will not oppose QANTM-Xenith merger

The ACCC has announced it will not oppose the proposed merger between QANTM Intellectual Property Limited and Xenith IP Group Limited.

The merger will combine the second and third largest suppliers of IP services in Australia.

See ACCC's QANTM-Xenith media release.

See QANTM-Xenith merger register.

 

Lady Justice holding scales of justice

19 March 2019 - Country Care cartel case before Federal Court

The Country Care Group Pty Ltd, its Managing Director and a former employee were committed to stand trial last week an all of the cartel charges laid against them by the CDPP.

The first case management hearing was heard this morning before Justice Wigney. The Prosecutor was ordered to file and serve an Indictment by 14 May 2019. The matter was listed for a further Case Management Hearing at 9:30am on 2 July 2019.

A trial is to be listed for hearing to commence on 14 October 2019 with an estimated duration of 6 weeks.

For case details see my Country Care case page.

 

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