Australia among the best in antitrust enforcement

By Grace Ormsby|20 February 2019

Australia is the third most active antitrust enforcer in the APAC region, with US$82 million worth of such fines imposed domestically in 2018, according to a new report.

PaRR’s 2019 Global Trends Monitor report highlighted that the rise of the digital economy, concerns over the use of personal data, and the all-encompassing reach of tech giants such as Google and Amazon have been major factors in popularising the concepts of market power and abuse of dominance, and as a result, have impacted active enforcement for mergers, acquisition, and investment.

Australia was also the fifth most active jurisdiction on a global level for active enforcement, sitting behind the US, China, the European Commission, and India, the report showed.

In the wider APAC region, PaRR’s report highlighted that the top sectors for “antitrust enforcement” in the last calendar year were internet and e-commerce, transportation, telecommunications, energy, and financial services, with consideration given to policy development in the focus areas.

In the 2018 Year in Review – and reflecting the top sectors for enforcement APAC-wide – the report noted Australia’s full Federal Court decision to increase a cartel penalty against Yazaki to record levels, as well as the announcement by the competition agency of the charging of ANZ, Citigroup, and Deutsche Bank with criminal cartel offences.

The Australian government’s launch of power pricing reform and blocking of Hong Kong-based CKI’s proposal to acquire APA as being contrary to the “national interest” were also listed as examples of active enforcement, alongside $20-million-plus fines for Note Printing and Securency for historical conspiracy to bribe foreign officials, and the ACCC’s consideration for greater oversight of digital platforms.

For the coming year, the report listed off Australia’s testing of “relatively untested” criminal antitrust provisions in the aforementioned criminal cartel trial, ACCC’s consideration of Google and Facebook after the publishing of the digital platform inquiry last year, and the new penalty regime that came into effect on 1 January around breaches to consumer protection laws.

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It also cited the ACCC’s Rod Sims accusation of the country’s corporate sector of “arrogance”, noting his claim that “2019 would see the first lawsuit under the country’s revised Section 46 abuse of market power provision”.

The report explained that competition law is “inevitably” butting heads with governments that are increasingly determined to use their regulatory regimes as both tools of industrial policy and political expediency, with this concern “now ever more apparent”.

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Australia among the best in antitrust enforcement
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