LAWS3022/JURD7522 Competition Laws

Lecturer: Deborah Healey

What is the course about?

Competition regulation is based upon the assumption that a level playing field for business competition will mean that the most efficient competitor is able to sell goods or services at the lowest price to consumers. The economy and consumers will benefit from this. The CCA prohibits anti-competitive activity such as cartels and misuse of market power, and mergers which increase market power, all of which might impede competition in the market. The CCA is enforced by the Australian Competition and  Consumer Commission (ACCC) which is a well resourced and effective regulator. The Courts may impose substantial civil penalties for breach of the CCA, and in relation to cartels, may impose criminal penalties and gaol terms to offenders. All Australian companies, and particularly the larger companies and regardless of their industry, have competition law risks. Competition law is also an area of regular amendment and reform. All of these areas are considered in the Competition Law course and make it varied and interesting.

Why does the subject interest you?

Assessing competition law risks requires analysis in a detailed fashion of the way particular businesses and industries work. This means that the law is never dry – the application is very fact-specific and analysis also involves consideration of strategic outcomes. Competition law is an evolving area of law with regular review and amendment, which means that business advisers must update expertise constantly. The Liberal Party has promised a “root and branch” review of the Competition and Consumer Act (CCA) if elected. Contentious current areas include the market power of the retail grocery duopoly, and on-going concerns in relation to petrol pricing. Issues such as these are used as examples in class discussion.

How will this course be relevant, say, a year after graduating?

A commercial lawyer needs to be able to spot competition law risks. This is particularly important given the complexity of the provisions and the size of potential penalties.  Whether you ultimately advise on the issue yourself or consult experts within your own firm or otherwise, you need to be able to recognise risk areas and follow them up for your clients.