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Reforms to Australian competition laws have come into play, including the much awaited section 46 reforms, as the government moves to level the playing field for small businesses.
The Competition and Consumer Amendment (Competition Policy Review) Bill passed last month, and contains a broad range of amendments that kicked in yesterday.
One of the key amendments, the reformed section 46 of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010, will prohibit a corporation from engaging in conduct with the purpose, effect or likely effect of substantially lessening competition in a market in which it directly or indirectly participates.
Other amendments include replacing price signalling provisions with a general prohibition on concerted practices that substantially lessen competition.
The formal merger clearance process will also be abolished and the ACCC will first hear merger authorisation applications before being reviewed by the Australian Competition Tribunal.
Reforms will also see an introduction of class exemptions for conduct that the ACCC determines does not raise competition concerns; and amending the National Access Regime to better target the lack of competition in markets for infrastructure services where third-party access is required.
Minister for Small Business Michael McCormack said the reforms sent a strong message that the government was supportive of small businesses and would ensure increased choice and better services in the market place.
"Strengthening section 46 gives small businesses the confidence they deserve and Australian consumers the peace of mind they need," Mr McCormack said.
"When Australia’s small businesses are able to compete on their merits, they can pursue new ideas, expand and create more jobs across the country.”