Australian and New Zealand competition and consumer protection regimes
This research report was released on 13 January 2005.
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- Key points
- Media release
There has already been significant convergence of Australia's and New Zealand's competition and consumer protection regimes, particularly by international standards.
- Consequently, the regimes are not significantly impeding businesses operating in Australasian markets.
Major changes to the two regimes are not warranted at this stage.
- Full integration, requiring identical laws and procedures and a single institutional framework, would have high implementation and ongoing costs, change the operation of the existing national regimes and achieve only moderate benefits.
- Partial integration, involving retaining the two national regimes, but establishing a single system to handle certain matters having Australasian dimensions, also would be unlikely to achieve net benefits.
However, the long-term objective of a single economic market for Australia and New Zealand would be assisted by a package of measures involving a transitional approach to integration of the two regimes.
This package would improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the regimes in dealing with present day competition and consumer protection matters having Australasian dimensions.
The transitional integration package, while retaining national sovereignty for each jurisdiction, would include:
- retaining, but further harmonising, the two sets of laws in relation to competition and consumer protection policy
- making more formal the policy dialogue between the two Governments on competition policy
- providing scope for businesses to have certain approvals considered on a 'single track' (but with separate decisions)
- enhancing cooperation between the two regulatory institutions (the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and the New Zealand Commerce Commission), including in relation to enforcement and research
- providing for the investigative powers of the regulators to be used to assist the regulator in the other country
- enhancing the information sharing powers between regulators (safeguards should be included to ensure that confidential information shared between regulators can remain protected from disclosure)
- adding consideration of impediments to a single economic market to the scope of the proposed review of Australian consumer protection.
Implementation of the recommendations would provide a framework in which the competition and consumer protection regimes of Australia and New Zealand evolve as:
- the Australasian business environment integrates further
- the broader policy environment develops further as the two Governments make progress towards the goal of establishing a single economic market.
The Productivity Commission has recommended a package of measures to enhance cooperation between Australia and New Zealand in relation to their competition and consumer protection regimes.
These recommendations are in a report responding to a request from the two Governments to examine the potential for greater cooperation, coordination and integration of the two regimes in the context of the long term goal of establishing a single economic market.
Commissioner Tony Hinton said: "The package would improve the handling of competition and consumer protection matters having Australasian dimensions and would foster further integration of the trans Tasman business environment".
The recommended package, while retaining national sovereignty for Australia and New Zealand in relation to competition and consumer protection matters, would involve further harmonising the Australian and New Zealand laws and enhancing the policy dialogue and cooperation between the two Governments. There would be scope for compliance costs for businesses to be reduced by having certain applications requiring approval in both countries (such as a merger) to be considered on a 'single track'. The investigative and information sharing powers of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and the New Zealand Commerce Commission would be enhanced.
Tony Hinton commented: "This package of measures represents a transitional approach to integration, by providing a further building block for an eventual single economic market for Australia and New Zealand".
Cover, Copyright, Foreword, Terms of reference, Contents, Abbreviations and explanations, Glossary, Key Points, Overview, Findings and recommendations
1.1 What has the Commission been asked to do?
1.2 The Commission's approach
1.3 Conduct of this study
1.4 Structure of the report
2 Context of this study
2.1 The Australasian economic relationship
2.2 Competition and consumer protection regimes
2.3 Cooperation, coordination and integration of competition and consumer protection regimes
3 Analytical approach
3.1 Assessing the current regulatory regimes
3.2 Formulating policy options
3.3 Assessing policy options
4 Assessing the competition and consumer protection regimes
4.1 Legislative frameworks
4.2 Applying the laws
4.4 Sanctions and remedies
4.5 Reviews and appeals
5 Policy options (full and partial integration)
5.1 Full integration
5.2 Partial integration
6 Policy options (transitional integration)
6.1 Enhanced policy dialogue
6.2 Improved information gathering, exchange and protection
6.3 Other cooperation and coordination initiatives
6.4 Process coordination
6.5 Cross country appointments
6.6 Overall assessment
A Submissions, visits and roundtable attendees
B Competition law
B.1 Legislative framework
B.2 Applying the laws
B.3 Approval processes
B.5 Reviews and appeals
C Consumer protection
C.1 Misleading, deceptive and unfair conduct and false representations
C.2 Consumer information and product safety
C.3 Conditions and warranties
C.4 Unconscionable conduct
D Consumer protection: financial services
D.1 What are financial services?
D.2 Relevant Australian regulator
D.3 Relevant New Zealand regulator
D.4 Interjurisdictional issues
E State and Territory regimes
E.1 State and Territory legislation
E.2 State and Territory agencies