Amendments to Cartels Bill

  • Paul Goldsmith
Commerce and Consumer Affairs

Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs Paul Goldsmith announced changes that remove the criminal sanctions for cartel behaviour currently contained in a the Commerce (Cartels and Other Matters) Amendment Bill. 

“The Commerce (Cartels and Other Matters) Amendment Bill enables companies to collaborate if the activity promotes competition and enhances efficiency,” Mr Goldsmith says.

“The Bill also establishes a new clearance regime so firms can test their proposed collaboration with the Commerce Commission and get greater legal certainty before they enter into the arrangements.

“In the current version of the Bill, criminal sanctions are also introduced to accompany civil sanctions for cartel behaviour. The criminalisation of cartels has remained an issue of major contention with the Bill. I have re-examined the case for criminalisation, and on balance I have recommended that the criminalisation provisions be removed.

“Cartel behaviour, which is an anti-competitive arrangement by competitors, will continue to be subject to civil sanctions, and these are strengthened in the Bill.

“Under the Bill, civil sanctions could be in the tens of millions of dollars for corporations, or up to $500,000 for individuals, depending on the offence. I believe this provides very strong deterrence.

“In weighing up the benefits of criminalising cartel activity, the Government had to consider the significant risk that cartel criminalisation would have a chilling effect on pro-competitive behaviour between companies.

“The goal is to ensure we enact quality legislation that promotes healthy competition giving consumers confidence and choice.

“I am pleased to confirm that Act and United Future have agreed to support these changes to the Bill so that it can progress through its final stages in the House.”

The Bill enables collaborative arrangements that can help businesses innovate and tap into overseas markets. It also includes an exemption which better provides for collaborative activities in circumstances where cooperation between potential competitors can be efficiency-enhancing, such as emergency planning for public safety reasons.

“This Bill contributes to the Government’s Business Growth Agenda and our goal for innovation-friendly regulation which helps society make the most of its technological and creative potential,” Mr Goldsmith says.  

Mr Goldsmith says he will shortly introduce a supplementary order paper to the House to give effect to these changes.