Competition policy boost for SME retailers, more retail trading deregulation

The Harper Review’s Draft Report on reviewing Australia’s competition policy has recommended changes to section 46 governing the misuse of market power by focusing on protecting competition and not competitors, which would restrict the ability of major companies such as Coles and Woolworths to force out smaller competitors if their business decisions had the ‘effect’ of substantially lessening competition.

The CEO of Master Grocers Australia/Liquor Retailers Australia, Jos de Bruin said that the Harper Review report contains real solutions for real competition for all Australians, not just big business, to benefit from.

“The Duopoly have been claiming that the introduction of an effects test will hamper competition, productivity and jobs for Australia,” he said.

Mr De Bruin said that nothing can be further from the truth as all the chains are concerned about is crowding out existing businesses, lessening competition, furthering their market dominance and power and securing their own obscene profits.

However, while the Harper Review argued for lifting restrictions on retail trading hours in Queensland, SA and WA, the MGA opposes further deregulation of trading hours in these states.
“The independents will lose trade to the two supermarket majors, who will have another mechanism to extend their market power and market share,” Mr de Bruin said.

Russell Zimmerman, executive director of the Australian Retailers Association, said the ARA is hopeful the review will help identify ways to build the economy and promote investment, growth, job creation, and durable benefits to consumers and retailers alike.

“We were pleased to see the issue of trading hours brought to attention – as long as retailers are not forced to open by landlords if not profitable,” Mr Zimmerman said.

Consultation on the draft report is now open, and will run for eight weeks until November 17 2014, with the final report due in March next year.

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