Competition Law News 2012
20 December 2012 - ACCC proposes to authorise Qantas/Emirates alliance
The ACCC proposed to grant conditional authorisation for an alliance between Qantas and Emirates.The condition relates to restricting the operation of the alliance between Australia and New Zealand. View press release. View merger register and draft decision.
20 December 2012 - ACCC calls for comment on Telstra's proposed acquisition of Adam Internet
The ACCC has released a Statement of Issues on this proposed acquisition, noting that its preliminary view is that 'proposed acquisition is likely to result in a substantial lessening of competition in the supply of retail fixed voice and broadband services'. View press release and merger register.
20 December 2012 - ACCC to oppose Carsales acquisition of Trading Post
The ACCC has announced it will oppose the proposed acquisition by Carsales.com of Trading Post assets, concluding that the proposed acquisition would be 'likely to result in a substantial lessening of competition through the removal of a close and effective competitor of Carsales'. View press release and merger register. The merger review was commenced on 30 April - 113 calendar days prior to this announcement (although the ACCC claims 65 review days, excluding weekends, public holidays and time during which review was suspended (2-21 November)
19 December 2012 - RPM undertakings accepted from Oticon
The ACCC has accepted enforceable undertakings from Oticon Australia Pty Ltd, which has acknowledged engaging in resale price maintenance in the supply of hearing aids. View press release.
17 December 2012 - Thai Airways to pay $7.5million for price fixing
Thai Airways is the latest (the 13th) airline to the penalised for its participation in cartel conduct relating to fuel and other surcharges - the Federal Court has ordered it to pay $7.5 million in penalties. View press release.
14 December 2012 - ACCC proposes to authorise coordination for Jetstar joint ventures
13 December 2012 - ACCC alleges cartel conduct by Yazaki Corporation and Australian Arrow
The ACCC has instituted proceedings against Yazaki Corporation and its Australian subsidiary, Australian Arrow Pty Ltd. It alleges they engaged in 'cartel conduct, market sharing and price fixing, in relation to the supply of wire harnesses to Toyota Motor Corporation and its related entities in Australia'. View press release.
13 December 2012 - State of Competition - year in review
The final State of Competition for 2012 is out now. It provides an overview of key competition and consumer law issues for 2012; in particular, we have mergers, the new ACL (and sympathy for those tackling regulation 90), price fixing, access and personnel changes at the ACCC. It also has a neat picture of a dragon, a selection of 'favorite 2012 headlines' well worth a look and another reference to 'the force'. Must read issue. Thanks to Rachel, Alex and Rhonda for this terrific new publication and I look forward to reading more in 2013.
12 December 2012 - ACCC v Woolworths over merger procedure
A bit of media this week about Woolworths and the ACCC and the breakdown in discussions over streamlined merger processes. See, for example, 'Woolworths hits back at ACCC claims' (Business Spectator, 11 December 2012), Blair Speedy, "ACCC 'won't slow Woolworths' growth' (The Australian, 11 December 2012), Cara Waters, 'Woolworths ditches agreement with ACCC on retail acquisitions' (10 December 2012, Smart Company) and Eli Greenblat, 'Woolworths shelves ACCC talks on buy ups' (The Age, 8 December 2012). Agreement has been reached with Coles for a trial period of six months. Woolworths has indicated that while it agrees that a streamlined process for acquisitions is required, that process should apply to all, not just the supermarket industry.
4 December - ACCC wants more help from corporate Australia to streamline merger process
Annabel Hepworth and Damon Kitney, 'No let-up in ACCC merger scrutiny' (The Australian, 4 December 2012, pages 19-20) report on the ACCC's priorities for 2013, including reviewing its informal review process guidelines. No groundbreaking developments on the merger front.
30 November 2012 - New State of Competition out now
This month's State of Competition focusses on agency agreements and price fixing and, most signifcantly, has a picture of YODA on the front mpage which makes it quite irresistable. Issue 8 (Nov 2012) is written by Alexandra Merrett and Rachel Trindade and is headed 'Flights of fancy or hard core cartels? When agents (allegedly) price fix' - abstract as follows:
'Price fixing is perhaps the best known of Australia's per se prohibitions: regardless of any impact on competition or the prices ultimately paid by consumers, competitors can't agree on prices. 'Competitors' is generally thought to be a straightforward term which does not encompass agents. But some recent cases highlight how agents and other commercial partners can find themselves in price fixing trouble. One of those cases, USA v Apple, also raises interesting issues regarding market power, market share and most favoured nation clauses.'
As always with SoC (archives here), well worth a read - interesting (and entertaining) analysis both of the USA v Apple case and ACCC's battle with Flight Centre over allegations Flight Centre price fixed by attempted to stop principals from undercutting its own prices (the authors obvserve that the 'ACCC is trying to push the boundaries of what constitutes a competitor'.
28 November 2012 - ACCC proposes to authorise collective bargaining by Qld chicken growers
Queensland chicken growers collectively bargain under an authorisation provided by state legislation; authorisation will allow them to continue absent the statutory exemption. View press release. View authorisation register.
28 November 2012 - ACCC grants interim authorisation to Tabcorp
The ACCC 'has granted interim authorisation to Tabcorp Wagering Manager (Vic) to give effect to an agreement with ACTTAB under which Tabcorp will provide fixed odds wagering and risk management services in return for a management fee.' View press release.
22 November 2012 - ACCC not to oppose acquisition by Nestle of Pfizer Nutrition
The ACCC has announced it 'would not oppose the proposed acquisition of Pfizer Nutrition, a global infant nutrition business, from Pfizer Inc by Nestlé S.A after accepting a court enforceable undertaking.' The merger involes two of the three largest suppliers of infant formula and significant undertakings were required prior to approval - in particular, the undertaking 'requires Nestlé to sell an exclusive ten year licence for Pfizer Nutrition’s infant nutrition S-26/SMA brand portfolio in Australia, followed by a further ten year ‘black out’ period in which Nestlé would not be permitted to re-enter the markets with Pfizer’s brands.' View mergers register (includes undertakings)
15 November 2012 - CCC releases Content Access Report
The Competitive Carriers' Coalition (CCC) has released a paper entitled: 'Exploring Content-Related Competition Issues: Will Excluisve Content Rigts be the New Bottleneck in the Australian Telecommunications Sector?' (prepared by Windsor Place Consulting and dated 18 October 2012). It makes several recommendations in relation to , including that the ACCC should have power to put in place an 'ex ante regulatory regime for content-related competition issues ...' (p 35). This has attracted some media - see, for example, Adam Bender, 'Competitors protest Telstra's dominance on content' (Computerworld, 14 November 2012), John Durie, 'As the man said, content is key' (The Australian, 15 November 2012) and John Durie, 'Content, not distribution, is the real issue in broadcasting ' (The Australian, 14 November 2012) and Harrison Polites, 'Current digital content regulation failing consumers: CCC' (Technology Spectator, 14 November 2012)
12 November 2012 - ACCC commences publc consultation on NBN SAU
The ACCC has commenced its 'first public consultation on NBN Co Special Access Undertaking. See ACCC press release and consultation paper. Interested parties have untl 11 January 2013 to make a submssion.
8 November 2012 - ACCC authorises fee free ATMs in remote Indigenous communities
The ACCC 'has authorised an initiative to reduce total ATM fees in very remote Indigenous communities, involving a number of banks and ATM deployers'. The initiative is coordinated by the Australian Bankers' Association (ABA) and covers 76 existing ATMs. The ACCC considers the initiative will 'help to alleviate financial and social disadvantage for Indigenous people living in very remote communities by addressing the issue of high ATM usage and removing fees for certain transactions.' View press release. View authorisation register.
7 November 2012 - ACCC proposes to authorise SuperTAB pool agreements between wagering operators
The ACCC 'proposes to grant authorisation to Tabcorp Wagering Manager (Vic) Pty Ltd to give effect to two agreements it has entered into with Racing and Wagering WA (RWWA) and ACTTAB Limited for a period of six years.' The ACCC considers that the agreements are 'likely to result in benefits to the public by improving the stability of the totalisator pools offered by RWWA and ACTTAB' and that any competitive harm will be limited. View press release. View authoristaion register.
7 November 2012 - ACCC proposes to authorise contract talks for Queensland concrete cartage owner-drivers
The ACCC is 'proposing to grant authorisation allowing truck owner-drivers in Queensland, who are providing concrete cartage services, to collectively bargain with Hanson Construction Materials Pty Ltd.' View press release. View authorisation register.
5 November 2012 - ACCC proposes to allow collective bargaining for potato growers
The ACCC 'proposes to authorise the South East Potato Growers Association and the Victorian Potato Growers Council and their members to collectively bargain with potato buyers', stating that it could potentially lead 'to a more efficient Australian potato growing industry. View press release. View authorisation register.
2 November 2012 - Chemical company admits engaging in RPM
'Chemical Formulators Pty Ltd (Chemform), a manufacturer and supplier of commercial cleaning products, has acknowledged that it engaged in resale price maintenance in court-enforceable undertakings provided to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission': ACCC Press Release.
1 November 2012 - site makeover
I've given the site a modest makeover today; there will be a few teething issues as I check through the code on each page, so please bear with me over the next few days as I sort this out.
31 October 2012 - Virgin activity
Virgin claims it's deal to take a majority stake in Tiger Airways and to take over Skywest will promote competition and create jobs. The ACCC has expressed some concern about the impact of two companies controlling the market. See various items in today's Financial Review - in particular, Andrew Cleary, 'Sims vows scrutiny of Virgin deals' (AFR, 31 October 2012, p 17 - reporting that Sims has vowed to examine the deals "extremely closely, extremely deeply") and Matthew Stevens, 'Sims, Australia's sky marshal' (AFR, 31 October 2012, p 36) See also Steve Creedy, 'ACCC to probe Virgin's Tiger bid' (The Australian, 31 October 2012, p 3) and John Durie, 'Sims a paassenger as Virgin takes off' (The Australian, 31 October 2012, p 28)
30 October 2012 - State of Competition Issue 7 out now
Issue 7 of the State of Competition (authored this month by Rachel Trindade and Rhonda L Smith) and provides a primer in market definition, discussed with particular reference to sport in Australia - another great read.
23 October 2012 - Prof Stephen Calkins delivers third annual Baxt Lecture
Professor Stephen Calkins, currently Director of the Mergers Division at the Irish Competition Authority, today delivered the third annual Baxt Lecture (hosted by Melbourne University's CLEN) on the topic: The Global Conversation about Merger Review and Powerful Buyers.
19 October 2012 - Concern about Carsales' proposed acquisition of Trading Post
The ACCC has 'released a Statement of Issues (SOI) outlining concerns with the proposed acquisition of the Trading Post and its associated assets by Carsales.com Ltd from Telstra Corporation Limited'. Submissions are due by 2 November 2012 with a decision to be deferred until 29 November 2012. View merger register.
12 October 2012 - $10m price fixing fine for Emirates
Emirates has been ordered to pay a total of $10m in penalties for engaging in cartel conduct. Emirates is the tenth airline to settle proceedings relating to the cartel. View media release.
11 October 2012 - ACCC to oppose Seven Group Holding's proposed acquisition of Consolidated Media Holdings
The ACCC today announced that it will oppose the proposed acquisition by Seven of the balance of shares that it does not already own in Consolidated Media Holdings. The ACCC concluded that the 'proposed acquisition would lead to Seven having substantial interests in a major free to air network and the largest subscription television company in Australia, as well as a 50% shareholding in the company involved in the acquisition of the rights to the majority of Australian sports that are broadcast by FOXTEL.' View merger register.
11 October 2012 - ACCC to oppose Sonic's acquisition of Healthscope's pathology business in Queensland
The ACCC has 'announced it will oppose the proposed acquisition by Sonic Healthcare Limited (Sonic) of Healthscope Limited’s (Healthscope) pathology business in Queensland' concluding that the acquisition would be 'likely to have the effect of substantially lessening competition in the market for the supply of community pathology services in Queensland.' View merger register. View press release.
4 October 2012 - ACCC to oppose Woolworths/Lowe's proposed acquisition of G Gay & Co hardware stores
The ACCC 'today announced it will oppose the proposed acquisition by the Woolworths/Lowe's Joint Venture (Woolworths) of an independent chain of three hardware stores owned by G Gay & Co in Ballarat, Victoria', concluding that 'the proposed acquisition is likely to result in a substantial lessening of competition through the removal of what will be one of Woolworths' two closest competitors in the Ballarat area'. See ACCC Press Release. See merger register.
4 October 2012 - Qantas/Emirates withdraw application for early interim authorisation
The ACCC yesterday announced that Qantas and Emirates have withdrawn their application for interim authorisation to plan and negotiate their proposed alliance. The ACCC will continue to examine the substantive authorisation application and they note the companies 'believe that they are able to undertake a significant amount of preparatory work without the need for interim authorisation.' See ACCC Press Release. See also Ross Kelly, Qantas, Emirates Withdraw Bid For Early Approval (Wall Street Journal, 4 October 2012)
28 September 2012 - New State of Competition - Issue 6: Howzat! The ACCC's war on mergers
The latest State of Competition is out and this time it's all about mergers and the time taken and nature of ACCC merger review - a must read, including a peek at 1976 photo's of authors Rachel Trindade anbd Alexandra Merrett (you need to read it to understand it!). View issue 6.
24 September 2012 - Virgin urges ACCC to refuse Qantas/Emirates interim authorisation
Virgin has lodged a submission with the ACCC arguing that there is no justification or necessity for interim authorisation and that full assessment of the competitive implications of the proposed Qantas/Emirates alliance should occur before any authorisation is provided. Air New Zealand, JumpJet Airlines Limited and Singapore Airlines have also made a submission arguing that the interim authorisation not be granted. View authorisation register. On the other hand, the Department of Infrastructure and Transport and Tourism Victoria support the application for interim authorisation. See also Steven Creedy, 'Virgin tells ACCC to deny Qantas Deal' (The Australian, 25 September 2012)
20 September 2012 - ACCC calls for comment on Woolworths' proposed acquisition of supermarket site in Glenmore Ridge
The ACCC has issued a Statement of Issues on this proposed acquisition. 'The ACCC’s preliminary view is that the proposed acquisition is likely to result in a substantial lessening of competition in the local Glenmore Park market.' View press release. View merger register.
20 September 2012 - ACCC approves collective bargaining for Sural Basin coal producers
The ACCC 'has authorised Cockatoo Coal and Stanmore Coal to collectively bargain with the Surat Basin Rail joint venture for access to its new rail line in Queensland.' View press release. View authorisation register.
18 September 2012 - ACCC approves Outdoor Media Operations Pty Ltd proposed acquisition of EYE
The ACCC has concluded that it will not oppose the acquisition of Eye Corp from Outdoor Media Operations, noting that they did not consider the acquisition would substantially lessen competition in either 'the national market for the supply of out of home advertising services; or 'the national market for the acquisition of out of home advertising sites.' View press release. See also Darren Davidson, 'ACCC approves Ten's sale of Eye' (The Australian, 20 September 2012)
18 September 2012 - Distributor of baby products gives court enforceable undertaking for RPM
Valiant Enterprises Pty Ltd 'has acknowledged that it engaged in resale price maintenance in court-enforceable undertakings provided to the' ACCC. 'In July 2011, Valiant Enterprises attempted to induce an online retailer not to advertise the AngelCare AC1100 baby monitor for sale at a price less than that specified by Valiant Enterprises, including by suggesting that stock may be withheld from the retailer.' View press release.
18 September 2012 - ACCC and China's State Administration for Industry and Commerce sign MOU
The ACCC and the State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC) of the People's Republic of China signed a Memorandum of Understanding today. View press release.
17 September 2012 - ACCC not to oppose acquisition of EMI Group Global Limited by Universal Music Holdings Limited and Vivendi SA
The ACCC 'liaised closely with international competition regulators including the New Zealand Commerce Commission, the European Commission and the Federal Trade Commission, throughout the investigation of the proposed acquisition' and became the fourth country to approve the $billion+ deal. The ACCC concluded that the acquisition was not likely to substantially lessen competition in the Australian based markets for 'the signing of artists & repertoire (A&R)', 'wholesale supply of physical recorded music', 'wholesale supply of digital recorded music' and 'the retail supply of digital music.' View merger register. See also Christie Eliezer, 'Why the ACCC approved the Universal/EMI deal' (The Music Network, 20 September 2012). Kathy McCabe, 'Independent labels warn Universal-EMI super label will cost music fans' (Herald-Sun, 19 September 2012), AAP 'ACCC approves Ten's sale of Eye Corp' (Business Spectator, 20 September 2012)
14 September 2012 - Pilbara v ACT  HCA 36
The High Court today ruled in Pilbara Infrastructure Pty Ltd v Australian Competition Tribunal  HCA 36. In the matters M155/2011, M156/2011 and M157/2011 the appeal was allowed; the court set 'aside the orders of the Full Court of the Federal Court of Australia made on 4 May 2011 and 16 May 2011 and, in their place, order that a writ of certiorari, directed to the Australian Competition Tribunal, issue to quash the Australian Competition Tribunal's determination the subject of the proceeding' and remitted the matter to teh Tribunal for determination. In matters M45/2011 and M46/2011 the application for special leave to appeal was dismissed.
At para 120 the majority concluded: 'The Full Court concluded that Fortescue's application for judicial review should be dismissed because the Tribunal found that it could not be satisfied that it was not profitable to build rail lines that would duplicate the services to which Fortescue had sought access. But again, the conclusions reached by the Tribunal in this respect were reached on evidence and material far beyond the evidence and material to which it should have had regard in conducting a review of the kind required by the Act. There having been no review by the Tribunal of the kind for which the Act provided, the orders made by the Full Court of the Federal Court in these matters should be set aside. In their place there should be orders in each matter that a writ of certiorari, directed to the Tribunal, issue to quash the Tribunal's determination the subject of that proceeding. The matters should be remitted to the Tribunal for determination according to law.'
In a separate judgment Justice Heydon also allowed the appeal, noting [at 195] that these had been 'extraordinarily protracted proceedings'.
13 September 2012 - ACCC releases statement of issues for ConsMedia merger
The ACCC today released a Statement of Issues on the possible acquisition by Seven of ConsMedia. The SoI notes preliminary competition concerns, in particular, concerns over 'the influence Channel Seven may be able to exert over FOX SPORTS Australia (which is 50% owned by Consolidated Media Holdings) in joint bids and other commercial arrangements in relation to sports rights.' Submissions on the SoI are invited by 27 September 2012 with a final decision deferred until 11 October. See ACCC press release. See also Bryan Firth, 'ACCC keen to ensure free-to-air broadcasters have a sporting chance' (The Australian, 14 September) and Ross Kelly, 'ACCC may be drawing line in the sand' (The Australian, 13 September)
13 September 2012 - Current ACCC Priorities
In a speech to the Australia Israel Chamber of Commerce WA, Rod Sims 'made it clear that mergers and acquisitions in concentrated markets will be subject to close scrutiny' and that there are currently 35 separate investigations 'misuse of market power, cartels, or cases involving lessening of competition'. View press release.
12 September 2012 - ACCC outlines petrol retailing issues
Rod Sims addressed the Australasian Convenience and Petroleum Marketers Association Annual Conference today, discussing issues of misuse of market power and unconscionable conduct. View speech. View ACCC press release.
12 September 2012 - ACCC grants interim authorisation to TWU (Qld)
The ACCC 'has granted conditional interim authorisation to allow the Transport Workers Union (Queensland Branch) to commence collective bargaining negotiations on behalf of concrete-truck owner-drivers contracted with Hanson in Queensland'. View press release.
12 September 2012 - ACCC authorises collective dealings between private hospitals
The ACCC 'has authorised the St Vincent's Health Australia Group and St Vincent's Private Hospital Sydney to engage in collective and joint activity' including 'information sharing, collective bargaining and agreements not to deal with particular third parties'. View press release.
7 September 2012 - Garuda Airlines not entitled to immunity
The High Court today ruled Garuda Airlines (95% sharholdings owned directly by the Republic of Indonesia) could not claim immunity from Part IV cartel procedings under the Foreign States Immunity Act. This is because it had carried on business in Australia for a number of years and s 11(1) of the Act provides that 'A foreign State is not immune in a proceeding in so far as the proceeding concerns a commercial transaction.' The Court concluded: 'The arrangements and understandings into which the ACCC alleges Garuda entered were dealings of a commercial, trading and business character, respecting the conduct of commercial airline freight services to Australia. The definition of a "commercial transaction" is satisfied.' See also John Durie, 'ACCC scores against Garuda Airlines' (The Australian, 8 September 2012) and ACCC press release.
31 August 2012 - 'The Marker' out now
The ACCC's cartel video is out now. Ass Professor Caron Beaton-Wells, who features in a video news release promoting the film, has a piece about it on The Conversation - 'Will the ACCC’s foray into film make its mark on cartel behaviour?'. See also ACCC Press Release. See also video Rod Sims video news release and video message from Qantas CEO, Alan Joyce.
30 August 2012 - Cartel blockbuster coming soon
The ACCC is joining other competition regulators in producing videos to encourage whistleblowing of cartels. The film is called 'The Marker' and will run for 16 minutes. The ACCC was apparently inspried by similar video's produced in Sweden (which is hilarous), The Netherlands (even better) and Singapore. It will be sent to CEO's of Australia's 300 largest companies. See Ben Butler, 'ACCC films life and crimes of cartel crooks' (SMH, 30 August 2012).
30 August 2012 - ACCC to authorise fee free ATM's in remote Indigenous communities
The ACCC 'has issued a draft determination proposing to allow a number of banks and ATM deployers to provide fee free balances and withdrawals at selected existing ATMs in very remote Indigenous communities.' View ACCC press release.
29 August 2012 - ACCC delays Sonic decision
The ACCC has delayed its merger decision in relation to Sonic Healthcare's proposed takeover of Healthschope's east coast pathology business. The review commenced on 18 May and a decision was to be announced Thursday. On Tuesday the ACCC requested further information from the merging parties and suspended the timeline. A new proposed decision date has yet to be announced. See also Madeleine Heffernan, ACCC delays Sonic decision (SMH, 29 August 2012)
23 August 2012 - ACCC alleges gas cartel
The ACCC has 'instituted proceedings in the Federal Court in Sydney against Renegade Gas Pty Ltd (trading as Supagas NSW, a privately owned company) and Speed-E-Gas (NSW) Pty Ltd (a wholly owned subsidiary of Origin Energy Limited)' alleging that they 'gave effect to an anti-competitive cartel arrangement which included not supplying liquid petroleum gas (LPG) cylinders for forklifts to each others' customers'.
The ACCC 'is seeking declarations, injunctions, pecuniary penalties and costs against Renegade Gas and Speed-E-Gas' and 'implementation of a trade practices compliance program by Renegade Gas'. The ACCC is also seeking 'declarations, injunctions, banning orders, pecuniary penalties and costs against' senior executives in the companies. A directions hearing is listed for the Federal Court in Sydney on 20 September 2012. View press release.
20 August 2012 - ACCC conditionally authorises collective bargaining for small private hospitals
The ACCC 'has granted conditional authorisation to allow prospective members of the Private Hospital Collective Bargaining Group to bargain collectively with suppliers and health funds'. View press release. View authorisation register.
16 August 2012 - ACCC proposes to approve collective bargaining for Surat Basin coal producers
The ACCC 'proposes to authorise Cockatoo Coal and Stanmore Coal to collectively bargain with the Surat Basin Rail joint venture for access to its new rail line in Queensland'. View press release. View authorisation register.
15 August 2012 - ACCC interim authorisation for SuperTAB
The ACCC has 'granted conditional interim authorisation to Tabcorp Wagering Manager (Vic) Pty Ltd to give effect to agreements which govern participation in the SuperTAB pool'. A draft decision on the substantive application will be issued in October. View press release. View authorisation register.
3 August 2012 - Call for comment on Sonic Healthcare's proposed acquisition
The ACCC has released a Statement of Issues on 'on the proposed acquisition of the pathology businesses of Healthscope Limited in Queensland, NSW, ACT and WA by Sonic Healthcare Limited.' Submissions are due by 16 August. View press release. View merger register.
2 August 2012 - ACCC approves News Corp acquisition of CMH
The ACCC 'today announced that it would not oppose the proposed acquisition by News Corporation of 100 per cent of the shares in Consolidated Media Holdings Limited (CMH). CMH has a 50 per cent shareholding in FOX SPORTS Australia, which owns 50 per cent of the shares in FOXTEL.' The ACCC took the view that the acauisition was 'unlikely to lead to a substantial lessening of competition in any relevant market'.View press release. View merger register. See also Darren Davidson, 'ACCC approves News Corp's ConsMedia bid' (2 August 2012)
2 August 2012 - ACCC investigating supermarkets
In a speech to the COSBOA National Small Business Summit in Melbourne yesterday, ACCC Chairman, Rod Sims, reiterated that the ACCC was 'looking at concerns raised about the way in which the major supermarket chains deal with their suppliers' and noted that they related to the potential for unconscionable conduct and 'concerns over the misuse of market power, particularly in relation to private label products.' He also noted that the 'retail sector is under constant scrutiny in terms of mergers and acquisitions.' Sims also re-iterated that the ACCC was investigating the competitve impact of shopper docket schemes, noting that the investigation would take some time. See also Larissa Ham, 'ACCC takes aim at supermarket giants' (2 August 2012)
31 July 2012 - ACCC proposes to authorise collective group dealings between private hospitals
The ACCC has issued a draft deterimination proposing 'to allow St Vincent's Health Australia Group hospitals to engage in collective or joint activity', including 'information sharing, collective bargaining and agreements not to deal with a particular party' which will 'enable the applicants to operate as a single economic entity'. The proposed authorisation will be for a period of 10 years. View press release.
26 July 2012 - ACCC authorises collective bargaining by Tasmanian lottery agents
The ACCC today authorised the 'Lottery Agents’ Association of Tasmania (LAAT) and its current and future members to collectively bargain with Tatts Group and Intralot Australia Pty Ltd for five years'. View press release.
25 July 2012 - ACCC approves several authorisations
The ACCC today granted 'interim authorisation to the Victorian Potato Growers Council and its members to continue collectively negotiating contracts and keep doing business through contracts negotiated under the previous authorisation granted in 2007', granted authorisation to an 'Affiliation Agreement between Emirates and Flydubai, and separately, to a Commercial Alliance between Etihad and Air Berlin' and granted authorisation 'to Star Alliance for its Corporate Plus, Conventions Plus and Meetings Plus programs for a period of eight years'.
20 July 2012 - ACCC authorises NBN Co / Optus HFC subscriber agreement
The ACCC yesterday "authorised an agreement between NBN Co and SingTel Optus for the migration of Optus' HFC subscribers to the NBN and the decommissioning of parts of Optus' HFC network. This decision confirms a draft decision issued by the ACCC in May 2012." ACCC Chairman, Rod Sims, referreed to the decision as 'finally balanced'. (View press release. View authorisation register). Opposition communications spokesman, Malcolm Turnbull, has described the decision as "very black day": see Malcolm Turnbull, 'A dark day for the ACCC as it abandons competition in favour of a Government Monopoly' (Press Release, 20 July 2012)n See also AAP, 'ACCC Optus tick anti-competitive: Turnbull' (SMH, 20 July 2012)
20 July 2012 - ACCC not to oppose Australian Leisure and Hospitality's proposed acquisition of the Caringbah Hotel
The ACCC yesterday announced that it "does not propose to intervene in the proposed acquisition by Australian Leisure and Hospitality Group (ALH) and the Laundy Hotel Group of the Caringbah Hotel in NSW. Woolworths Limited has a direct 75 per cent interest in ALH. View press release. View merger register. This has prompted and item in today's Australian Financial Review by Sue Mitchell - 'Woolies, ACCC at loggerheads on deals' (at p 3), in which she refers to the 'tense' relations between the ACCC and major supermarkets 'hehead of a crackdown on creeping acquisitions'. See also Sandra Siagian, 'ACCC rules The Caringbah Hotel buy protects competition' (Leader, 26 July 2012)
19 July 2012 - ACCC to not oppose acquisition by APA of HDF subject to divestiture
The ACCC has announced it "would not oppose the proposed acquisition by APA Group (APA) of Hastings Diversified Utilities Fund (HDF) after accepting a court enforceable undertaking from APA to divest the Moomba to Adelaide Pipeline System (MAPS)." View press release. View merger register.
6 July 2012 - ACCC seeks comment on proposed final access determination for non-NBN local bitstream access service
The ACCC 'has made an interim access determination (IAD) for the declared local bitstream access service (LBAS) and is seeking comment on the proposed final access determination.' Submissions are due by 3 August. View press release.
5 July 2012 - New competition law website
Alexandra Merrett, Rhonda Smith and Rachel Trindade have started a new website - The State of Competition, Australia’s home of competition law analysis. It looks excellent and will include regular short pieces on topical issues in Australian competition policy. The first is on the topical issue of home brands: Crying over spilt milk: buyer power and the rise of private labels.
5 July 2012 - Software price discrimination
Stephen King has a blog piece about international price discrimination for software today on the Core Economics blog - worth a look.
4 July 2012 - ACCC issues discussion paper on the Facilities Access Code
The ACCC today issued a discussion paper to examine the Facilities Access Code. The facilities covered by the code include 'telecommunications transmission towers, the sites of those towers and underground facilities that are designed to hold lines' and it was 'designed to encourage co-location in mobile towers and promote competition.' View press release.
28 June 2012 - ACCC opposes Australian Leisure and Hospitality's proposed acquisition of certain liquor assets in NSW
The ACCC considers that 'the proposed acquisition by Australian Leisure and Hospitality Group (ALH) of five takeaway packaged liquor retailers in NSW (three of which are attached to hotels) would be likely to have the effect of substantially lessening competition in the relevant local markets. Woolworths Limited has a direct 75 per cent interest in ALH.' View press release. View merger register.
28 June 2012 - ACCC propses to authorise contract talks between Qld owner-driver group and car carrier
The ACCC 'proposes to allow truck owner drivers in Queensland to bargain as a group with car carrier CEVA over contract terms, with Transport Workers' Union assistance.' View press release. View authorisation register.
27 June 2012 - ACCC proposes to authorise aviation alliances
The ACCC has issued two separate draft decisions which 'propose to grant authorisation to an Affiliation Agreement between Emirates and Flydubai, and separately, a Commercial Alliance between Etihad and Air Berlin.' View press release.
27 June 2012 - ACCC proposes to authorise Star Alliance programs
The ACCC has issued a draft decision proposing to grant authorisation to Star Alliance for its 'Corporate Plus, Conventions Plus and Meetings Plus programs for eight years.' View press release. View authorisation register.
26 July 2012 - Battle for ConsMedia
Lots of attention on the ACCC regarding media investments in the coming week, with both Seven and News Ltd's declaring interests in ConsMedia. See merger registers: Seven Group Holdings Limited - proposed acquisition of Consolidated Media Holdings Limited (submissions due 13 July 2012; proposed decision on 2 August 2012) and News Corporation - proposed acquisition of Consolidated Media Holdings Limited (submissions due 11 July 2012; proposed decision on 2 August 2012).
For media, see, eg, Adele Ferguson, Sims the key to moguls' media plans (Brisbane Times, 25 June 2012), Damon Kitney and Mitchell Bingemann, 'Seven faces hurdles in battle for ConsMedia' (The Australian, 26 June 2012) and Andrew Main and Damon Kitney, 'Kerry Stokes bullish on ConsMedia bid' (The Australian, 25 June 2012). For a brief rant see Terry McCrann, 'Watchdog ACCC in another universe' (Herald Sun, 26 June 2012) - or for a longer version see Terry McCrann, 'Fairfax, Stokes: very different strokes' (Herald Sun, 26 June 2012)
25 June 2012 - ACCC and hardware
The ACCC has delayed consideration of Woolworths' proposed takover of hardware group G Gay & Co. It has requested further information. See John Durie, 'ACCC eyes hardware battle with Woolworths' (The Australian, 25 June 2012)
22 July 2012 - ACCC issues final access determination for regulated transmission services
21 June 2012 - ACCC invites comment on proposal to conditionally authorise collective bargaining for small private hospitals
The ACCC 'is inviting submissions in response to its draft determination proposing to allow prospective members of the Private Hospital Collective Bargaining Group to bargain collectively with suppliers and health funds. The proposed authorisation would be subject to a condition limiting the size of the bargaining group, and it would also allow the hospitals to share certain information for benchmarking purposes.' View press release. View authorisation register.
21 June 2012 - ACCC grants interim authorisation to Australian Bankers' Association
The ACCC 'has granted interim authorisation to a number of banks and ATM suppliers to enable them to provide fee free withdrawals and balance transactions at 76 currently identified ATMs across a range of very remote Indigenous communities.' View press release. View authorisation register.
20 June 2012 - Interim authorisation for Surat Basin coal producers to collectively bargain
The ACCC has 'granted interim authorisation to allow Cockatoo Coal and Stanmore Coal to commence collective negotiations with the Surat Basin Rail joint venture. The collective negotiation arrangements relate to access to a proposed rail system which will connect the Surat Basin coal mines to the export supply chain for the first time.' View authorisation register. View press release.
20 June 2012 - ACCC suspends assessment of NBN Co special access undertaking
The ACCC has announced that it has suspended "its assessment of the Special Access Undertaking (SAU) lodged by NBN Co in the expectation that NBN Co will soon lodge a revised undertaking." View press release.
15 June 2012 - ACCC authorises collective bargaining by Inghams' South Australian chicken growers
14 June 2012 - Sims addresses CEDA
ACCC Chairman, Rod Sims, spoke at the CEDA conference today discussing communication strategy, its approach to reviewing small retail acquisitions and competition in relation to electricity.
In relation to mergers he notes that the ACCC notes that it has been paying 'increased attention to incremental acquisitions' in relation to a number of retail areas, inclduing liquor, grocery and home improvement sectors in which national chains are 'increasng their participation' to ensure that 'further acquisitions do not ultimately lead to retail or indeed wholesale industry structures that may adversely affect the competitiveness of these markets or reduce choice for consumers'.
However, in return for the major chains providing 'advanced notice of a wider range of acquisitions, and for particular information being provided upfront with each transaction, we would establish a dedicated team to assess these transactions within specified times. This way Wesfarmers and Woolworths would certainly know quickly whether we have significant concerns or not with a particular acquisition.' The ACCC is in discussions with the major chains regarding this process. View press release. View speech.
14 June 2012 - Malaysia Airlines Cargo penalised $6 million for price fixing
The Federal Court has penalised Malaysia Airlines Cargo Sdn Bhd $6 million for price fixing. This related to conduct occurring between 2002-2005. Justice Emmett also made orders restraining Malaysia Airlines Cargo 'from engaging in similar conduct for a period of five years and to pay $500,000 towards the ACCC's costs'. View press ACCC release.
12 June 2012 - Changes to merger procedure forecast
ACCC Chairman, Rod Sims, will outline new mergers in Sydney on Thursday in a speech to the Committee for Economic Development of Australia. The Australian's John Durie reports that the speech will 'include a proposal that for more speedy small market mergers, the ACCC will grant immediate conditional clearance in return for more information from the parties earlier and an agreement not to sign the contracts until clearance is granted.' See John Durie, 'ACCC chairman Sims negotiates supermarket wars' (The Australian, 12 June 2012)
12 June 2012 - Supermarket wars
National Party senator John Williams is lobbying of the federal government to change legislation to reduce the power of Coles and Woolworths - he's turning to Frank Zumbo for advice ... See, eg, Adele Ferguson, 'Heat to Grow on Supermarket Duopoloy' (Brisbane Times, 12 June 2012). See also Royce Millar, Melissa Fyfe, 'Small grocers target big two' (The Age 11 June 2012)
8 June 2012 - ACCC publications on price signalling
The ACCC has released a 'Business snapshot' publication on the new price signalling laws as well as a guidance on "authorising and notifying price signalling conduct".
7 June 2012 - ACCC wants price signalling extended to petrol
I the wake of the introduction of price signalling laws, which currently apply only to the banking industry, it comes as no surprise that the ACCC has indicated it wants the laws extended to the petrol industry (see, eg, Rod Sims, 'ACCC Priorities in Enforcing Competition Law' (speech delivered at Competition Law Conference, 5 May 2012). See further: Elysse Morgan, ''ACCC urges extension of price-signalling ban" (ABC News, 6 June)
7 June 2012 - ACCC not to oppose Glencore’s proposed acquisition of Viterra
The ACCC will not oppose Glencore Incorporated plc’s proposed acquisition of Viterra Inc, concluding that "proposed acquisition would be unlikely to substantially lessen competition as post merger Glencore would continue to face competition from a number of significant competitors in the market for grain trading in South Australia." View press release. View merger register.
6 June 2012 - Price signalling laws now in force
The new price signalling laws, initially applying only the banking industry, are now in force. See the price signalling page for further details.
4 June 2012 - Fels reports on taxi industry
Plenty of media on Allan Fels' draft report into the Victorian taxi industry, released last week - 'Customers First: Service, Safety, Choice'. See, for example, Julie Power, 'NSW taxis overcharge, underpay, says Fels' (SMH, 4 June 2012), Pia Akerman, 'Fels flags a radical revamp for toxic taxis' (The Australian, 1 June 2012), Adele Ferguson, 'All's not fare in Fels battle in taxi wars' (SMH, 4 June 2012). In the media release accompanying the draft report Fels claimed that the proposed reforms would 'inject more competition and consumer choice in the industry – and more targeted, effective regulation'.
31 May 2012 - ACCC calls for comment on proposed acquisition of Caringbah Hotel by Australian Leisure & Hospitality
The ACCC has released a 'Statement of Issues on the proposed acquisition of the Caringbah Hotel, located in the Caringbah area of Sydney, NSW, by ALH Group Pty Ltd'. View press release. View merger register.
28 May 2012 - ACCC proposes to authorise NBN Co / Optus HFC subscriber agreement
The ACCC has issued a 'draft determination proposing to grant authorisation for an agreement between NBN Co and SingTel Optus for the migration of Optus’ HFC subscribers to the NBN and the decommissioning of parts of Optus’ HFC network'. View press release. View authorisation register.
26 May 2012 - Intent in competition law
Stephen King has blogged his thoughts on last week's Competition Law & Economics Network discussion group seminar by Prof Maurice Stucke (and takes a fair whack at (some) behavioural economists). The seminar discussed the issue of intent in competition law, with some interesting discussion on the different approaches taken in the US and Australia. View Stucke's paper: 'Is Intent Relevant?'.
25 May 2012 - Full Federal Court dismisses cover pricing appeal
The Full Federal Court has dismissed the appeal of Carmichael builders against findings that Carmichael 'engaged in illegal price controlling conduct known in the construction industry as ‘cover pricing’.' View ACCC press release. View original case (TF Woollam & Son Pty Ltd). Appeal decision not yet available.
24 May 2012 - ACCC will not oppose AGL's acquisition of Loy Yang Power
The ACCC has indicated it will not 'oppose the proposed acquisition by AGL Energy Limited (AGL) of Great Energy Alliance Corporation Pty Limited (GEAC), which owns Loy Yang Power (LYP)'. View press release. View merger register.
24 May 2012 - ACCC authorises service agreement between copyright collecting societies
The ACCC 'has authorised Viscopy Limited and Copyright Agency Limited to enter into a service agreement under which Copyright Agency Limited will provide various services to Viscopy Limited and its members.' View press release. View authorisation register.
24 May 2012 - ACCC grants interim authorisation to Transport Workers Union Queensland Branch
The ACCC has granted conditional interim authorisation which will enable the Transport Workers Union, Queensland Branch 'and its members who supply services to CEVA Logistics, to commence negotiations with CEVA Logistics.' View press release. View authorisation register.
19 May 2012 - ACCC investigating online pricing deals
The ACCC has indicated it will investigate clothing importers making deals with online stores which inflate prices. See, eg, 'ACCC to probe online price deals' (ABC News, 18 May 2012), Rachel Wells, 'ACCC to investigate internet clothing deals' (SMH, 18 May 2012) and Paddy Hintz, 'High price of buying Australian' (The Courier-Mail, 18 may 2012).
16 May 2012 - Delia Rickard appointed Deputy Chairperson of ACCC
Federal Assistant Treasurer, David Bradbury, yesterday announced the apointment of Delia Rickard as a full time Deputy Chairperson of the ACCC. The apointment is for a period of five years, beginning 4 June 2012. View press release.
16 May 2012 - ACCC calls for comment on Woolworths/Lowe's proposed acquisition of G Gay & Co hardware stores
The ACCC has released a Statement of Issues on the Woolworths/Lowe's JV's proposed acquisition of three hardware stores. View press release. View merger register. Deadline for submissions is 1 June with decision deferred until July 5.
16 May 2012 - ACCC grants interim approval to Emirates and Flydubai's Affiliation Agreement
The ACCC 'as granted interim authorisation for a proposed Affiliation Agreement between Emirates and the Dubai Aviation Corporation, trading as Flydubai.' View press release. View authorisation register.
16 May 2012 - ACCC grants interim approval for Etihad and Air Berlin to start implementing their aviation alliance
The ACCC 'has granted interim authorisation to Etihad Airways and Air Berlin to engage in joint pricing, scheduling and marketing of air passenger services between Germany and Australia.'. View press release. View authorisation register.
16 May 2012 - Petrol media
Plenty of media coverage on the ACCC's investigation of petrol prices. See, for example, Malcolm Maiden, 'ACCC's petrol fixation' (Brisbane Times, 16 May 2012).
15 May 2012 - Price signalling media
The ACCC's petrol investigation has sparked some media coverage on the price signalling laws soon to be applied to the abnking industry. See, for example, Clancy Yeates, 'ACCC chews at muzzle over price signalling' (Brisbane Times, 15 May 2012).
10 May 2012 - ACCC authorises Corporate Alliance between Virgin Australia and Skywest Airline
The ACCC 'has granted authorisation to a Corporate Alliance between Virgin Australia and Western Australian carrier, Skywest Airlines for five years. The Corporate Alliance will allow the airlines to offer bundled air passenger transport services to corporate customers who seek an integrated suite of charter, domestic and international services, such as mining companies with large fly-in-fly-out workforces'. View press release. View authorisation register.
8 May 2012 - King, Durie, Sims and Price Signalling
Stephen King recently interviewed Graeme Samuel, including discussing the new price signalling laws. In the interview, Samuel acknowledges that price signalling 'had little to do with the banks at all' and 'is really all about petrol' (last week his successor, Rod Sims, similarly observed that the genesis for the laws was petrol and not banking practices). Samuel also notes that the changes to the laws as they passed through Parliament have rendered them next to useless.
Today the Australian's Jamie Durie referred to the interview and Sims' speech, noting the 'stupidity' of the price signalling laws. King has responded, arguing that there are 'two parts to the price signalling laws - a really good bit and a useless bit.' The useless bit, he says, is the portion dealing with public price disclosure. On the other hand, he argues that 'laws against private price disclosures are sensible and strong' and should be extended.
5 May 2012 - Competition Law Conference
3 May 2012 - ACCC investigates information sharing arrangements in the petrol industry
The ACCC 'has commenced a formal investigation into price information sharing arrangements in the retail petrol industry'. View press release.
2 May 2012 - APCA may continue operating High Value Clearning System
The ACCC has authorised APCA to continue operating its High Value Clearing System. View press release.
26 April 2012 - ICN 2012: New Chair, New Priorities
The ICN held its 11th annual conference in Rio de Janeiro last week. Eduardo Pérez Motta, head of Mexico's Federal Competition Commission (CFC) succeeds John Fingleton (Chief Executive of the United Kingdom's Office of Fair Trading) as chair. View ICN blog item. View conference home page.
19 April 2012 - ACCC releases NBN non-discrimination guidelines
The ACCC has issued 'final guidelines on non-discrimination for NBN and superfast telecommunications networks'. View press release.
19 April 2012 - ACCC reauthorises arrangements for WA real estate and business agents
The ACCC 'has granted conditional authorisation to arrangements between the Real Estate Institute of Western Australia (REIWA) and its members and consumers in WA'. View press release. View authorisation register.
13 April 2012 - ACCC authorises collective recycling tenders by Hunter councils
12 April 2012 - ACCC proposes to authorise collective bargaining with Inghams
12 April 2012 - ACCC authorises collective recycling tenders
12 April 2012 - ACCC re-authorises collective bargaining for affordable funerals
12 April 2012 - Furniture and bedding retailers to collectively bargain
The ACCC 'has granted authorisation to arrangements which allow Homemakers Furniture and Sleepzone Bedding retailers to collectively bargain with a range of suppliers.' View press release. View authorisation register.
10 April 2012 - ACCC approves Foxtel acquisition of Austar
5 April 2012 - ACCC to announce decision on Austar-Foxtel merger on 10 April
The timeline has recommenced in relation to the ACCC's informal assessment of the Austar-Foxtel merger with the proposed date for the ACCC's announcement now listed as 10 April. The review commenced on 26 May 2011. View merger register (including timeline). See also, eg, Darrin Davidson, 'ACCC to announce decision on Austar-Foxtel merger on Tuesday' (The Australian, 5 April 2012)
5 April 2012 - Court finds telecommunications bundling to be third line forcing
The Federal Court today made declarations by consent that Clear Telecoms (Aust) Pty Ltd engaged in third line forcing in relation to the sale of bundled deals of telecommunication services and equipment rental agreements to two small businesses in 2008. The 'third line forcing in this matter was the tie between the supply of telecommunication services with call credits and the rental of equipment through a finance company. '. View press release.
5 April 2012 - ACCC proposes to authorise service agreement between copyright collecting societies
The ACCC 'proposes to allow Viscopy Ltd and Copyright Agency Ltd to enter into a service agreement under which Copyright Agency will manage and administer the day-to-day operations of Viscopy’s business'. View press release.
5 April 2012 - ACCC not to oppose Pact Group Pty Ltd's proposed acquisition of Viscount Plastics Pty Ltd
5 April 2012 - ACCC seeks comment on proposed variation to fixed line final access determinations
30 March 2012 - ACCC named GCR's Agency of the Year – Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa
The ACCC was named Global Competition Review's Agency of the Year – Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa at an award ceremony in Washington. View press release.
30 March 2012 - ACCC calls for comment on APA's proposed acquisition of Hastings
The ACCC has 'released a Statement of Issues on the APA Group's proposed acquisition of Hastings Diversified Utilities Fund.' Submissions on the SOI are due by 13 April. View press release. View merger register.
28 March 2012 - ACCC not to oppose Amcor Limited's proposed acquisition of Aperio Group Pty Limited
In it's press release the ACCC states that it 'considered that if the merged Amcor / Aperio attempted to increase the price of value-added flexible packaging and/or decrease service levels, competitors already supplying Australian customers, along with potential suppliers located overseas, would be able to attract business and win market share away from the merged firm.' View press release. View merger register.
27 March 2012 - Nick Xenophon proposes divestiture Coles and Woolworths
Senator Xenophon proposes to introduce legislation to require Coles and Woolworths to progressively divest market share from 70 to 20 per cent. See, eg, Ken McGregor, 'Senator Nick Xenophon moves to smash Coles and Woolworths duopoly' (The Advertiser, 27 March 2012)
22 March 2012 - ACCC proposes to authorise corporate alliance between Virgin Australia and Skywest airlines
The ACCC has 'issued a draft decision which proposes to grant authorisation to a Corporate Alliance between Virgin Australia and Western Australian carrier, Skywest' which it believes 'will promote competition by enabling Virgin Australia and Skywest to offer an extensive integrated air service package to corporate customers in competition with Qantas and its affiliates ...'. View press release. View authorisation register.
21 March 2012 - ACCC not to oppose proposed acquisition of HP's PET and plastics assets by Visy
21 March 2012 - ACCC proposes to reauthorise rules to support high value payments
The ACCC 'proposes to grant reauthorisation to the High Value Clearing System (HVCS) Regulations and Procedures, operated by the Australian Payments Clearing Association (APCA).' View press release. View authorisation register.
16 March 2012 - ACCC proposes to reauthorise arrangements for WA real estate and business agents
The ACCC has 'issued a draft determination proposing to reauthorise arrangements under which the Real Estate Institute of Western Australia deals with its members and consumers in WA'. View press release. View authorisation register.
15 March 2012 - Collective bargaining for independent furniture and bedding retailers
14 March 2012 - ACCC to review equity takeover of takeover of Intercast & Forge
The ACCC is reviewing the completed acquisition of Intercast & Forge, Australia's largest iron foundry and manufacturer of rail castings. View merger register. Submissions due by 26 March. See also Leonie Lamont, 'ACCC conducts post mortem into foundry takeover' (SMH, 14 March 2012)
10 March 2012 - Flight Centre accused of price fixing
The ACCC has instituted proceedings in the Federal Court in Brisbane against Flight Centre Ltd, alleging it attempted to induce competitors to enter into price fixing arrangements. A directions hearing is listed for Friday 13 April 2012 at 9:30am before Justice Logan. Flight Centre denies the allegation. View press release.
8 March 2012 - ACCC calls for comment on Australian Leisure and Hospitality's proposed acquisitions
The ACCC has released a 'Statement of Issues on the proposed acquisition of 31 hotels and one takeaway packaged liquor licence in New South Wales by Australian Leisure and Hospitality Group Pty Ltd.' Submissions are due by 22 March 2012 and the ACCC's final decision will be deferred until 5 April 2012. View press release.
7 March 2012 - ACCC to consult on proposed Foxtel undertaking
The ACCC today commenced market consultation on the proposed undertaking offered by Foxtel in respect of its proposed acquisition of Austar. The closing date for submissions is 20 March with a final decision expected by the end of the month. View press release. View merger register. See also Patrick Durkin and John McDuling, ACCC Flags Lighter Touch on Mergers (AFR online, 8 March 2012)
2 March 2012 - Sims delivers keynote address
ACCC chairman Rod Sims delivered the keynote address at the inaugural Global Competition Review Law Leaders Asia-Pacific 2012 conference in Singapore. View speech.
1 March 2012 - ACCC proposes to authorise collective recycling tenders by Hunter councils
The ACCC "proposes to allow Hunter Resource Recovery and its member councils to collectively tender and contract for recycling services." View press release.
1 March 2012 - ACCC calls for comment on Visy's proposed acquisition
The ACCC has issued a "Statement of Issues on the proposed acquisition by Visy Industries Australia Pty Ltd of the PET and plastics assets of HP entities that have had receivers and managers appointed." Submissions are due by 15 March. View press release. View merger register.
28 February 2012 - ACCC accepts Telstra's structural separation undertaking
27 February 2012 - Homebrew supplier provides RPM undertaking
"Edwards Essences Pty Ltd, manufacturer and wholesaler of essences for alcoholic products to homebrew shops nationwide, has acknowledged that it engaged in resale price maintenance in undertakings provided to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission." In particular, it achnowledged that "it had made known to a distributor on two separate occasions that it should not sell goods supplied to it by Edwards at a price less than the recommended retail price specified by Edwards". View press release. View undertaking.
27 February 2012 - ACCC authorises capped fees for after-hours medical care in ACT
The ACCC has "authorised CALMS Ltd, the after-hours locum medical service which operates in the ACT, to agree and set fee caps for the provision of after hours primary medical services in the ACT". View press release.
27 February 2012 - ACCC declares non-NBN local bitstream access service and begins public inquiry
The ACCC has delcared the local bitstream access service "intended to cover the ‘last mile’ of fibre to residences and small businesses on networks that are not owned by NBN Co and does not apply to mobile, wireless or satellite networks." View press release.
27 February 2012 - Foxtel to allow ISP access in bid for Austar
Damon Kitney in today's Australian reports on 'Foxtel's new bid to secure ACCC nod', noting that Foxtel and Austar have 'agreed to make some of their exclusive content available to internet service providers as part of undertakings' to win ACCC support.
24 February 2012 - ACCC authorises collective bargaining in the Victorian tomato industry
The ACCC will allow members of the Australian Processing Tomato Grower (branch of the Vic Farmers Federation) to collectively bargain on terms and conditions of contracts with purchasers. View press release.
23 February 2012 - Statement of issues on Amcor's bid for Aperio
23 February 2012 - Revised structural separation undertaking from Telstra
The ACCC has received a further revised structural separation undertaking from Telstra addressing drafting issues that were of concern to the ACCC. The ACCC will now move to finalise its decision, which it expects to announce shortly. View press release. View further revised structural separatoin undertaking and supporting submissions.
23 February 2012 - Sims: 'Infrastructure: why, when and how to regulate"
ACCC Chairman, Rod Sims, spoke at the SMART Facility, University of Wollongong, on the topic of why, when and how to regulate infrastructure. View speech.
20 February - ACCC priorities and updated Compliance and Enforcement Policy
In conjunction with a speech to the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce (Enduring Perspectives and 2012 Objectives), ACCC Chairman, Rod Sims, released an updated Compliance and Enforcement Policy and outlined priorities for the ACCC. In relation to competitoin policy, Sims highlighted indicated the priority for 2012 would be determining whether there had been breaches in the fuel and supermarket sectors. He also noted the busy year ahead in relation to telecommunications and continued engagement with international regulators. View press release.
16 February 2012 - ACCC authorises collective bargaining by Queensland coal miners
The ACCC has "authorised Queensland coal miners to collectively bargain with Dudgeon Point Project Management (DPPM) and QR Network in order to support the miners' coal export programs." View press release.
16 February 2012 - ACCC supports affordable funerals through proposed authorisation
The ACCC proposes tore-authorise Retirees WA (Inc) to continue its collective bargaining for members' access to basic, pre-paid, low cost funerals. View press release.
14 February 2012 - ACCC declares wholesale ADSL
The ACCC has declared the 'wholesale ADSL service under section 152AL of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010. The ACCC considers that this will promote the long-term interests of end-users of fixed-line broadband internet services throughout Australia.' View press release.
10 February 2012 - ACCC invites further comments on NBN Co SAU
9 February 2012 - ACCC seeks comment on Woolworths' proposed liquor off licence acquisition
The ACCC has released a Statement of Issues on the proposed acquisition by Woolworths of a takeaway packaged liquor licence in Rocherlea, Tasmania. The Statement of Issues seeks further information on certain competition issues which have arisen from the ACCC's review to date. The ACCC invites further submissions from the market in response to the Statement of Issues by 23 February 2012. As a result, the ACCC's final decision will be deferred until 8 March 2012. View press release. View merger register.
4 February 2012 - Delay for Foxtel Takeover
Austar is seeking approval to delay the shareholder meeting on its proposed acquisition by Foxtel to allow more time for the ACCC to finish its informal review of the proposal. See, eg, Sally Jackson, Austar legal bid to stall Foxtel vote, (The Australian, 4 February 2012). View merger register.
3 February 2012 - ACCC: Cartel conduct - how it affects you and your business
The ACCC has released a leaflet, "Cartel conduct - how it affects you and your business"
2 February 2012 - Supermarket wars
Last year it was milk wars (prompting this Senate Inquiry). Now it's fresh fruit price wars and yet again there are claims that too much price competition is anti-competitive and there are calls for competition policy review (please no!) - see, eg, Richard Willingham and Saffron Howden, MPs concern over supermarket wars, (SMH, February 1, 2012)
In addition, Nick Xenephon wants a federal farming commissioner, apparently influenced by the recent - controversial - decision by the SA to appoint his frequent adviser, Frank Zumbo, the part-time Deputy Small Business Commissioner; see eg Sarah Martin, 'Liberals question adviser's plum job' (The Australian, 1 Feb 2012)). Watch this space!
1 February 2012 - Turnbull calls for ACCC oversight for NBN Co
Malcolm Turnbull has again made clear his views on the need for ACCC oversight on NBN Co - see press release.
31 January 2012 - ACCC takes Eternal Beauty Products to Court alleging RPM
The ACCC has instituted proceedings against Eternal Beauty Products Pty Ltd and its director, alleging they engaged in resale price maintenance "by inducing or attempting to induce two retailers not to sell products online at prices less than those specified by Eternal Beauty." View press release.
25 January 2012 - ACCC grants interim approval to Virgin and Skywest's corporate alliance
The ACCC has granted interim authorisation for a proposed corporate alliance between Virgin and Skywest, which would including bundling of 'air passenger transport services to corporate customers seeking an integrated suite of charter, domestic and international services.' View press release. View authorisation register.
25 January 2012 - ACCC authorises collective bargaining for film and television writers
The ACCC has authorised the Australian Writers' Guild (AWG) to collectively negotiate model terms and conditions of engagement with the Screen Producers Association of Australia (SPAA). View press release. View authorisation register.
25 January 2012 - ACCC grants interim authorisation for continued use of high volume clearance system
The ACCC today 'granted the Australian Payments Clearing Association (APCA) interim authorisation to continue operating certain provisions of its High Value Clearing System (HVCS) Regulations and Procedures.' View press release. View authorisation register.
24 January 2012 - ACCC will not oppose Cabcharge's proposed acquisition of Yellow Cabs in Adelaide
The ACCC's informal merger register notes that the "ACCC considered that as Cabcharge, including its subsidiary taxi networks, did not operate any taxi network services in metropolitan Adelaide, the proposed acquisition would result in a direct transfer of market share of affiliated taxis within the Adelaide metropolitan area" and that therefore "the proposed acquisition would be unlikely to result in a substantial lessening of competition in the markets for the supply of taxi services, taxi network services and booking and dispatch services to taxis in the Adelaide metropolitan area."
In relation to national markets for "provision of taxi-specific non-cash payment instruments, non-cash payment processing services for taxis and the supply of taxi equipment to the taxi industry, the ACCC considered that the proposed acquisition was unlikely to substantially raise barriers to entry and therefore was unlikely to substantially lessen competition in these markets. Within the context of the Adelaide metropolitan area, the ACCC considered that there would remain two independent taxi networks, with a substantial share of affiliated taxis, that could be approached by new entrants." View merger register.
John Durie has a related item in the Australian ('Sims in Drivers Seat on Taxi Ruling', The Australian, 26 January 2012) - he discusses the different path being taken by Sims compared with Samuel and also briefly discussses the recent changes to the Act and the issue of creeping acquisitions - worth a quick read if you can get past the Australian's paywall.
21 January 2012 - Backlash on ACCC merger stance
Several recent news items have discussed the ACCC's approach to mergers in light of the Metcash decision. See, for example, Sid Maher, 'Judge joins backlash against competition watchdog' (The Australian, 10 January 2012). A number of items quote the thoughts of former federal court judge, the Hon Peter Heerey QC, referring to an article published him in last month's ABLR. Stephen Corones also has an item in the last ABLR discussing this case and the editors have promised discussion of the Metcash case in the February issue of the ABLR.
The Australian Financial Review (pp 1 and 4) has an article by Patrick Durkin discussing Rod Sims' plan for a more 'pragmatic approach to how it assesses mergers'. Sims states that the ACCC will 'not be taking on theoretical points' but will be making 'proper, commercial assessments'. The item discusses the Metcash deal, the Foxtel/Austar deal, NBN and some other ACCC priorities. Patrick Durkin has another item on page 4 regarding the uncertainty surrounding the legal test for mergers. It includes comments from Peter Heerey QC and Dave Podder.