Competition review released: Call to abolish restricted trading hours, limits on parallel imports and new competition policy body

Restrictions on retail trading hours and limits on parallel imports should be abolished, according to the federal government’s “root and branch” review of competition law published this morning.

The review headed by Ian Harper has been eagerly awaited by small business as the first comprehensive review of Australia’s competition law in 20 years.

The draft report sets out 52 recommendations including the creation of a new body, the Australian Council for Competition Policy and the scrapping of the National Competition Council.

The new body would work alongside the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

In order to boost competition the report recommends an end to trading hour restrictions and says supermarkets should be allowed to sell alcohol.

It also recommends the removal of planning and zoning laws which restrict supermarket development.

The report recommends the introduction of an “effects test”, to prevent a business with substantial market power from acting in a way which lessens competition.

The report also finds that the cost imposed on consumers by so-called parallel import restrictions, where often-cheaper foreign products in direct competition with local goods are banned from entering the country, is not justified. Such a change could result in significant savings in consumer goods from foods to large whitegoods.

The draft report is open for consultation until November 17, with the final report due in March next year.

A full copy of the draft report is available here.

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