On 19 September 2013, the ACCC issued a final determination not to authorise members of the Australian Society of Ophthalmologists to reach agreements within shared practices as to the fees to be charged for ophthalmic services.
The ACCC considered that the public benefits were not likely to outweigh the detriment arising out of the proposed arrangements. In particular, the ACCC was of the view that authorisation may result in higher prices for patients due to reduced competition.
Although the ACCC has previously authorised fee setting conduct in shared practices of GPs and dentists, these professions have much higher numbers of practitioners, which was seen to reduce the likely anticompetitive effects. It was noted by the ACCC that the majority of ophthalmologists are currently participating in shared practices and are already able to benefit from the greater efficiencies and cost savings these bring without the need for fee arrangements.
While the ACCC has authorised fee setting arrangements between ophthalmologists practising in Vision Group clinics, the ACCC considers greater benefits arose in that case due to the branding of Vision Group and its business model, which gave rise to a greater consumer expectation of consistent prices.