The Labor Government will get tough on business bullies, legislating for jail terms of up to five years for business people who collude with competitors to control pricing.
The Australian reports today that Competition Minister Chris Bowen says the 2003 High Court decision requiring investigators to prove that a company had cut its prices below cost to ruin a competitor were very hard to prove. “We’d remove the necessity for the ACCC to prove that a company can recoup its losses after it’s behaved in a predatory fashion.” The Government will also toughen and clarify the legal definition of “taking advantage’ which Bowen says had been interpreted differently by the courts.
Also small businesses would be able to avoid expensive Federal Court action with the less expensive Federal Magistrates Court given power to hear cases relating to jurisdiction over predatory pricing issues. Bowen says these changes are no different to the ones outlined in August. Amendments he proposed at that time included making cartel conduct a criminal offense including jail terms of up to five years.