On 30 October 2014, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) released their joint 2013-14 Annual Report. The 390-page report details the actions taken by the ACCC and AER to achieve their 2013-14 objectives.
The reports provides a comprehensive and detailed overview of the specific work (including details of proceedings and non-court initiatives) undertaken by the regulators in promoting competition, increasing engagement with the broad range of groups affected by their activities, promoting the economically efficient operation of, use of, and investment in monopoly infrastructure as well as protecting consumers and small businesses.
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Some of the statistical data from the report for the year 2013-14 is extracted below:
- There were 342 ACCC and 33 AER news releases respectively.
- The ACCC accepted 10 section 87B undertakings to address competition concerns and 14 consumer protection related section 87B undertakings.
- The ACCC issued 36 final authorisation decisions for authorisation applications for conduct such as collective bargaining, industry codes of practice, industry levies, joint tender processes and other price or fee agreements.
- There were 720 exclusive dealing notification involving 503 separate matters (an increase of 23% on the previous year).
- The ACCC issued 13 determinations authorising collective bargaining arrangements.
- 23 infringement notices have been paid totalling over $220,000.
- The ACCC actively administered more than 260 product safety recalls.
- There were more than 150 carbon pricing complaints and enquiries.
- The ACCC considered 297 merger matters of which:
- 242 were assessed as not requiring public review (an increase of 14% on the previous year);
- 48 were referred to a public review (a decrease of 25% on the previous year); and
- 7 were subjected to a confidential review (a decrease of 42% on the previous year).
- Overall, 94% of all mergers were cleared by the ACCC (including pre-assessments).
- The ACCC issued 53 proceedings relating to consumer protection enforcement securing over $12 million in penalties and other remedies during the year.
- Disqualification orders were made against 5 directors, with 12 cases pending.
- $18.2 million in penalties for anti-competitive conduct.
Sneak-peak into the year ahead
The report also states that combatting cartel conduct remains an enduring priority for the ACCC and that an internal unit has been recently established dedicated specifically to examining potential serious cartel conduct.
Following the repeal of the carbon tax, the ACCC is determined to play a key role in ensuring that savings are passed on to consumers. The report states that this will be a significant focus for the ACCC in the coming year.