ACCC approves small business relief package
The ACCC has provided urgent interim authorisation to allow the Australian Banking Association (ABA) and banks to work together to implement a small business relief package, which will allow for the deferral of principal and interest repayments for loans to small businesses, in all sectors, impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The ACCC granted the interim authorisation on Friday afternoon after the ABA’s application was lodged on Thursday night.
“The ACCC recognises the significant financial hardship many Australian small businesses and their staff are experiencing as a result of this unprecedented crisis,” ACCC chair Rod Sims said.
“We recognise the urgency of this issue. We consider that this relief package will enable banks to quickly provide relief to impacted businesses, and allow them to keep employing their staff.”
Importantly, the ACCC revealed, the interim authorisation does not mean that individual banks can’t decide to offer more favourable and tailored terms to their small business customers experiencing financial hardship.
The interim authorisation applies to all ABA member banks who agree to participate, which at this stage includes AMP Bank, ANZ, Bank Australia, Bank of Queensland, Bendigo and Adelaide Bank, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, HSBC, Macquarie Bank, National Australia Bank, Suncorp Bank and Westpac.
The package includes a deferral of principal and interest repayments for all term loans and retail loans for six months, for small business customers with less than $3 million in total debt owed to credit providers.
At the end of the deferral period, businesses will not be required to pay the deferred interest in a lump sum, the ACCC confirmed.
"Either the term of the loan will be extended or the level of loan repayments will be increased," it said.
The ABA sought ACCC interim authorisation on behalf of its members because the relief package involves co-ordination by competing banks, actions that would otherwise raise concerns under Australian competition laws.
Having granted interim authorisation for the package, the ACCC will seek feedback on the ABA’s application for authorisation.