House of Representatives Committees

Standing Committee on Economics, Finance and Public Administration

Review of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission annual report 1996-97

Government response

(Tabled on 9 March 1999)

This document has been scanned from the original government response. It may contain some errors.

 

GOVERNMENT RESPONSE TO HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES STANDING COMMITTEE ON FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS AND PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION REVIEW OF THE ACCC's 1996-97 ANNUAL REPORT

Recommendation 1

That the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) include in the undertakings section of its regular publication, 'The ACCC's approach to mergers: A statistical summary', details of the undertakings listed.

Response

Agreed in principle.

The Government and the ACCC are committed to making its s. 87B undertaking procedures under the Trade Practices Act 1974 (TPA) as transparent as possible. As part of this move towards greater transparency the ACCC has initiated a new publication entitled 'The ACCC's approach to mergers: A statistical summary'. This publication provides an outline of the ACCC's approach to mergers and a summary of the number of merger applications received and the number approved or rejected over the previous few years. General summaries of undertakings relating to merger proposals are also included. The ACCC proposes to continue providing much of this statistical material through its regular Journal. The ACCC will, subject to confidentiality constraints, include more specific details of undertakings listed in its future publications.

The Government notes that a significant amount of information regarding s. 87B undertakings is already publicly available by accessing the public registers kept by the ACCC or via press releases made by the ACCC in relation to particular matters.

Recommendation 2

That as a matter of priority the ACCC prepare guidelines on the interaction between private sector parties and the ACCC on the preparation of cases. The preparation of the guidelines should involve public consultation and the guidelines should be forwarded to this Committee for its consideration.

Response

Agreed.

The ACCC is currently preparing guidelines on the use of external assistance in enforcement proceedings under the TPA. These guidelines are being prepared in consultation with the Office of Legal Services Co-ordination in the Attorney-General's department. After drafting of these guidelines has been completed, the ACCC proposes to make them available to interested parties, including the Law Council of Australia, for their comments. The ACCC will also send a copy of the draft guidelines to the Committee for its consideration.

In light of the Committee's recommendations, the Attorney-General has also written to all Ministers concerning the general issue of assistance given to regulatory and enforcement agencies by third parties.

Recommendation 3

That the Australian National Audit Office when undertaking its next financial audit of the AGS look closely at the issues outlined by the Committee and related matters.

Response

Agreed.

The Government has taken steps to bring this recommendation to the attention of the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO). The Government would welcome the ANAO looking at any of the issues raised by the Committee's report when undertaking its next financial audit of the AGS.

Recommendation 4

That the ACCC monitor the impact of the change in responsibility for compliance programs and report on this matter in the 1997-98 annual report.

Response

Agreed in principle.

Though ACCC will continue to provide broad compliance training to businesses and individuals, in late 1997 it indicated that it will no longer be involved in compliance programs related to s. 87B undertakings. Parties that are required to undergo compliance training as part of s. 87B undertakings given to the ACCC, will now have to rely on compliance training programs conducted by independent legal service providers. The ACCC will attempt to monitor the impact of this change in responsibility for s. 87B related compliance programs and will report on this matter in future Annual Reports.

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