Competitive Markets – Competition and Consumer Act 2010

The modern world of business is characterised by strict competition and implementation of various innovative trade policies. However, there is always a possibility of the trade practices turning unfair and monopolistic. The Trade Practices Act 1974 was amended on 1 January 2011 and it was renamed as the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (‘the Act’) to deal with the promotion of competition, fair trading and welfare of the consumers, business and the society at large.
The Act deals with every aspect of a competitive market and encompasses issues like unfair market practices, industry codes, mergers and acquisitions, product safety, product labelling, price monitoring, regulation of various industries. Part IV of the Act specifically prohibits various anti-competitive practices that may diminish competitiveness in the market. If such practices are not prohibited it can have a bad impact. Some traders can forcefully increase the price and supply poor quality goods or services to consumers. Example of such policies may be the formation of cartel, price fixing or bid rigging. Several other practices are also prohibited if competition is negated or lessened by their implementation.
The Act also makes it unlawful for an individual supplier to refuse supply of goods under specific circumstances including misuse of market power, forcing of terms, boycotts, resale price maintenance and placing limitations on buyers and resellers that diminish competition. The Act is applicable to almost every facet of trade including advertising, price setting, consumer relations and dealings with other businesses.

Role of Australian Competition and Consumer Commission

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (“ACCC”) is an independent statutory authority formed in 1995 to administer the Trade Practices Act 1974 and to safeguard the rights of consumers and business. ACCC has been entrusted with a responsibility to oversee and promote competition and fair trade in the market. The ACCC intends to facilitate the welfare of consumers and business and trade in Australia as a whole with the implementation of fair trading policies. The ACCC also regulates national infrastructure industries.
The role of the ACCC complements the role of various State and Territory consumer affairs agencies which administer similar legislation in their jurisdiction and the Competition and Consumer Policy Division of the Commonwealth Treasury.
ACCC also educates and provides information to the people regarding consumer welfare and fair trade policies. The intention is to promote consumer awareness. ACCC also strongly recommends alternative modes of dispute resolution in lieu of litigation. It can also authorise some anti-competitive conduct in exceptional circumstances. ACCC can also proceed with legal actions against any business entity or person, if necessary.

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