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Big business bullying: big problem

SmartCompany /

Nearly half of small and medium businesses say they have been bullied by big business. And the vast majority (81%) say the ACCC is not doing enough about it.

A new report, from a SmartCompany/Roy Morgan poll of 824 business owners, shows that 49% say they have been bullied by big business.

These alarming figures show that bullying is a huge concern for both small and medium business and companies want action to be taken against the offenders.

The new figures back up claims by Small Business Minister Fran Bailey that Australia needs tougher predatory pricing laws. And it also puts pressure on Labor’s small business spokesperson Craig Emerson to explain Labor’s position.

Labor is critising amendments to the Trade Practices Act, warning that they will have unintended consequences, that consumers would suffer and this could, in the long run, also damage small business.

The changes ban companies with a substantial market share from offering products and services below cost for a long period of time. This is intended to stamp out prolonged, severe discounting by big business, which has driven many small businesses to the wall.

But Emerson says the changes that passed through parliament yesterday – and which Labor supported – will have unintended impact. A small business in a country town or regional centre can be caught out for predatory pricing if it has a large share of the marketplace because the new rules are not related to size.

He says that foreign multinationals would benefit because large companies such as Woolworths and Qantas would not be able to match the prices of entrants such as Aldi and Tiger Airways.

Emerson says he tried to clarify some issues yesterday in parliament but the Treasurer and the Small Business Minister were too lazy to turn up.

“So now we will have a great period of uncertainty for businesses both large and small who, when they offer discounts, do not know if they are falling foul of the amendments.”

But Bailey says Labor has been left choking in the dust, that it is running Woolworths’ argument. “When a Labor spokesperson for small business starts spruiking the same line as Woolworths, he has lost the plot,” she says. “Look at the profit of Woolies – $1.2 billion. I don’t think Wollies has too much to worry about.”

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