Third wave of competition reform on the way?

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 25th June 2008

The climate is now right for Australia to embark on a third wave of competition and consumer policy law reform, ACCC Chairman, Mr Graeme Samuel, said today.

The proposed reforms already foreshadowed to the Trade Practices Act 1974, include changes to the misuse of market power and predatory pricing provisions, legislating against so-called creeping acquisitions, the introduction of criminal sanctions for cartel conduct and reforms to the whole framework of consumer protection.

Mr Samuel said it was “difficult to estimate, but unfortunately easy to underestimate, the significance of the changes proposed”.

The Productivity Commission has studied the potential benefit of changes to the consumer protection framework, finding that a potential saving to every household of up to $542 could be achieved each year.
“Australians are currently experiencing a difficult period as the cost of living increases,” Mr Samuel said. “But this is not the first time we have experienced such pressures.”

Similar pressures had been felt in the early 1970s and 1990s and governments responses saw significant competition reform, leading to economic growth – according to Mr Samuel. “These reforms sparked a period of unprecedented growth and prosperity in Australia, directly increasing the spending power and earnings of millions of citizens,” he claimed. “The time has now come for Australia to embark on a third wave of competition and consumer policy reform.”

“Many households are justifiably upset to see costs they cannot control, rising on a daily basis. They are right in demanding that their legislators do what they can to address these issues,” Mr Samuel added. “But it is important to realise there is no silver bullet solution that can suddenly reverse rising costs. If there was, governments would have used it long ago.

“The best way to put more money back into the pockets of everyday Australians is to ensure we deliver them the most competitive environment we can, where they can effectively exercise their right to choose the cheapest and best quality goods and services on offer,” Mr Samuel concluded.