Competition law expert Stephen Ridgeway appointed

ACCC Chair Rod Sims has welcomed Treasurer Josh Frydenberg's announcement today that Stephen Ridgeway will join the agency as a Commissioner.

Mr Ridgeway has been appointed for a term of five years. He brings to the ACCC extensive experience as a leading lawyer specialising in competition and consumer law, including in large-scale litigation, merger review and infrastructure access matters.

ACCC to enforce new rules for electricity retailers

The ACCC will be enforcing new rules that will benefit most electricity consumers by both limiting standing offer electricity prices and imposing new advertising rules on electricity providers under the new Electricity Retail Code. This code comes into force today in South East Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia.

From today, electricity retailers have various obligations under the code including:

Regulation of wholesale mobile voice terminating services to continue

Australia’s domestic Mobile Terminating Access Service (MTAS) for mobile voice services will be regulated by the ACCC for a further five years, but regulation of the MTAS for SMS services will not continue.

The MTAS is an essential wholesale service that allows consumers on different mobile networks to make calls or send SMS to each other. It requires mobile network operators to connect or ‘terminate’ calls or SMS between their different networks.

The current regulation, or declaration, of voice and SMS MTAS expires on 30 June, 2019.

ACCC appeal in PN Aurizon case

The ACCC has lodged an appeal against the Federal Court’s decision to dismiss the ACCC’s proceedings in relation to Pacific National’s acquisition of Aurizon’s (ASX: AZJ) Acacia Ridge Terminal.

In July 2018, the ACCC brought proceedings alleging that Pacific National’s acquisition of the Acacia Ridge Terminal in Brisbane would substantially lessen competition by raising the barriers to entry for potential new rail operators.

Optus back in court over NBN disconnection claims

The ACCC has instituted proceedings in the Federal Court against Optus Internet Pty Limited and Optus Mobile Pty Limited (Optus), alleging Optus misled consumers about the need to move to the NBN or risk being disconnected.

On 24 May 2018, Optus sent an email offering its NBN broadband services to 138,988 of its mobile customers, and advising them that their broadband service would be ‘disconnected very soon’ and encouraging them to ‘make the switch, before it's too late.’

Red Rich Fruits amends contracts with growers after ACCC concerns

A trader in apples, pears and other fresh fruits has agreed to change its horticulture produce agreements with growers after the ACCC raised concerns the agreements contained unfair contract terms, and terms which did not comply with the Horticulture Code of Conduct.

M.V Napoleone & Co Pty Ltd, trading as Red Rich Fruits, has agreed to amend a term in its standard form horticulture produce agreement considered by the ACCC to likely be an unfair contract term under the Australian Consumer Law.

Stable year for Murray–Darling Basin infrastructure operators, despite drought

Hotter and drier-than-average weather led to reduced water availability and higher prices for tradeable water products in 2017–18, placing pressure on water users in the Murray–Darling Basin, the ACCC’s ninth annual Water Monitoring Report has found.

Despite this, the ACCC found that 2017–18 was a relatively stable year for major water infrastructure operators, with relatively minor changes in hypothetical (or average) bills for irrigators in the majority of networks.

Concerns about AP Eagers' proposed acquisition of AHG

The ACCC has preliminary concerns about AP Eagers’ (ASX: APE) proposed acquisition of the shares in Automotive Holdings Group (AHG) (ASX: AHG) that it does not already own, and its impact on competition in new car retailing in the Newcastle/Hunter Valley region of New South Wales.

The ACCC is currently assessing an application for merger authorisation from automotive retailer AP Eagers.