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Australia faces new competition rules

A review of competition laws may level the board for small businesses.

Small businesses play an essential role in Australia's economy, with these businesses often relying on a range of legal supports when it comes to their commercial contracts and activity.

This feature has been recently highlighted in a draft report on new competition laws for Australia. The Competition Policy Review's draft report was released on September 22 and contained a number of recommendations for how small businesses in Australia might be further supported.

The draft report recommended the implementation of new avenues for dispute resolution among small businesses, specifically through the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

Other areas that were raised in the report included the possibility for greater protection for Australian businesses against overseas competitors. Given the ability for foreign firms to impact the domestic Australian market in ways never seen before, the draft report suggested finding new options for preventing anti-competitive behaviour from overseas companies.

In particular, the draft report has recommended the provisions of the Competition and Consumer Act (2010) apply to organisation's whose behavior outside of Australia damages competition within the country.

The Chair of the Competition Policy Review, Professor Ian Harper, suggested that these changes would be essential for addressing new challenges. 

"Australia's competition policy needs to be fit for purpose, and updated for the economic opportunities and challenges Australia will face in coming decades. We face forces for change from increased globalisation, population ageing and new technologies, which are rapidly changing the way our markets operate," said Mr Harper.

"The panel has reviewed Australia's competition policies, laws and institutions against a set of questions to consider whether our current competition policy settings are capable of navigating these change." 

The consultation period for these draft recommendations closes on November 17 2014, giving organisations only a limited time to consider the proposed changes and provide their comments.The Competition Policy Review then aims to send a final version to the federal government within 12 months.

For companies that need assistance with navigating changes to Australia's competition laws, it is important to get appropriate legal advice. A commercial lawyer will be able to offer advice on these laws as well as the legal protections that are available to small businesses.