There is one last opportunity to influence the next decade or so of competition laws or policy.

The Harper Review Panel has released its long-awaited final report into Australian competition law, policy and institutions. If adopted, the recommendations will have far reaching implications, including for the food sector. Key recommendations for food businesses include:

  • amending the section 46 misuse of market power prohibition to remove the existing ‘take advantage’ and purpose tests and instead prohibiting conduct that has the purpose, effect, or likely effect, of substantially lessening competition;
  • simplifying the cartel conduct prohibitions - a welcome change given the complexity and uncertainty of the existing provisions;
  • removing existing restrictions on some parallel imports, on the basis that these matters are best left to brand owners to address rather than domestic regulation;
  • deregulating retail trading hours (except alcohol and gambling);
  • making third line forcing subject to a substantial lessening of competition test;
  • repealing shipping liner exemptions in Part X; and
  • making no change to the unconscionable conduct or resale price maintenance provisions.

Read our insights into these and other recommended Harper Panel changes here.

We now wait to see the extent to which the Federal Government adopts the Panel's recommendations and what reforms will follow. Whatever comes from it, we're unlikely to see any legislated changes this year. The Government has invited comments on the final report until 26 May 2015. Given the significant implications of the recommendations and the rare opportunity to influence Australian competition policy and law, we urge food businesses to carefully consider making a submission.