The Turnbull Government has today introduced legislation to strengthen Australia’s competition law, reforms that will benefit consumers, businesses and the economy by boosting innovation, opening new markets and increasing choice for communities.
The Harper Review recommended strengthening section 46 of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 after finding that current misuse of market power law is not reliably enforceable and does not effectively target and deter anti-competitive conduct, to the detriment of Australian consumers.
Our adoption of the Harper Review recommendation will create a commercially and legally robust law to prevent firms with substantial market power engaging in conduct that harms competition in Australian markets. This is particularly important for Australia’s more than two million small businesses which make up more than 97 per cent of all businesses.
Extensive consultations preceded the Government’s final decision to reform the law and a last round of consultation on the draft legislation was held before today’s introduction. Concerns raised by stakeholders were taken into account in finalising the proposed law.
The reformed section 46 will prohibit a corporation from engaging in conduct with the purpose, effect or likely effect of substantially lessening competition in a market in which it directly or indirectly participates.
The new provision will more effectively address anti-competitive conduct, protecting the process of competition rather than individual competitors.
These reforms represent an important step towards ensuring Australia’s competition laws are fit for purpose and support competition in a dynamic economy. They are a key part of the Government’s response to the Harper Review, which is all about increasing choice and delivering better services and outcomes for Australian consumers.
Amending the law will provide another important tool to ensure Australian businesses can flourish. It will help to create a better environment under which new and innovative firms will be able to enter new markets, aid the introduction of new technologies into Australia and encourage availability of the best quality products at the lowest price for consumers.
Additional amendments to the competition law contained in the exposure draft for the Competition and Consumer Amendment (Competition Policy Review) Bill 2016 are being finalised and will be introduced to the Parliament in early 2017. The reforms to section 46 were previously contained in Schedule 7 of that Bill.