SMALL BUSINESS in Australia is set to receive a big boost from the Rudd Government in an announcement made last Monday.
In the statement, the package of measures is aimed at promoting competition and cracking down on anti-competitive behaviour by powerful businesses.
According to the Government, the package will help defend small business from predatory pricing and give it a permanent voice in the competition watchdog the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (the ACCC), amongst other key reform to the Trade Practices Act 1974.
“Small business and consumers demand nothing less than an effective trade practices regime. Reforming the Trade Practices Act to bring it into the 21st century has been an article of faith for this Government.”
The package is said to help ensure genuine competition for the benefit of consumers and small businesses by cracking down on anti-competitive behaviour by powerful businesses, promoting fair competition and make it easier to prosecute businesses engaging in anti-competitive behaviour.
The reforms will also strengthen the role of the ACCC by enabling it to fully investigate suspected breaches of the law by enhancing its information gathering powers.
The ACCC reach of powers will also be extended by removing the arbitrary monetary threshold currently applicable to allegations of unconscionable conduct, enhancing the protection of small business from transactions involving such things as undue influence.
These amendments will deal with predatory pricing while allowing businesses to engage in genuine competition and discounting to the benefit of consumers.
Small business will now have a permanent voice in the ACCC, with a requirement for at least one ACCC Deputy Chairperson to have small business expertise.
A move which the Government says will improve understanding of the special circumstances confronting small businesses and the difficulties they face in dealing with anti-competitive behaviour by more powerful businesses.
Small business will also enjoy cheaper and more efficient judicial access, with cases involving a misuse of market power in appropriate circumstances to be heard in the Federal Magistrates Court rather than in the Federal Court, a move said to incur significant cost savings.
The Assistant Treasurer will write to the States and Territories seeking their approval for the proposed amendments.