Authorisation

Authorisation enables businesses to engage in anti-competitive arrangements without the risk of legal action.

Authorising anti-competitive arrangements

The ACCC can ‘authorise’ businesses to engage in certain anti-competitive arrangements or conduct when it is satisfied that the public benefit outweighs the public detriment, including from any lessening of competition.

Decisions about the public benefits and detriments likely to result from the arrangements or conduct are made by the ACCC following a public consultation process.

The ACCC must make a final decision within six months of receiving a valid application. Before finalising its consideration, the ACCC must consult publicly on a draft decision.

Arrangements that can be authorised

Businesses can seek authorisation to engage in arrangements or conduct that may breach the competition provisions in the Act (except for misuse of market power).

The types of arrangements the ACCC is often asked to authorise include:

  • collective bargaining – for example where small businesses negotiate terms and conditions with a large customer or supplier
  • codes of conduct – for example where provisions of a code impose standards of behaviour on signatories that may restrict competition, require training from specific providers and/or impose sanctions for code breaches
  • industry levies – for example an agreement among industry participants to impose a levy on the sale of a particular product, the proceeds of which may then be used to fund research and development or a product stewardship arrangement for the proper disposal of environmentally harmful products
  • certain joint ventures or alliances – for example a supply agreement where one competitor agrees to stop producing a particular product and instead purchase it from the other party.

Businesses can seek authorisation of a merger proposal from the Australian Competition Tribunal. See: Merger authorisations.

When to apply for authorisation

Applying for authorisation is only necessary if there is a risk that proposed arrangements or conduct will breach the competition provisions of the Act.

Any of the businesses involved in the arrangements can apply on behalf of all the participating businesses. Alternatively, an industry association may apply on behalf of all, or a subset of, their members, including those that may join in the future.

Businesses are encouraged to contact the ACCC for guidance on the application process. Comprehensive guidelines are available to assist applicants to prepare their application.

Authorisation or notification?

Notification is an alternative to authorisation in some cases. A notification can only be lodged for certain arrangements such as exclusive dealing and small business collective bargaining.

Businesses can contact the ACCC to discuss whether an authorisation or notification may be more suitable for their particular arrangements.

Find out more

Contact the ACCC on 02 6243 1368 or at adjudication@accc.gov.au about the application process and what information will be relevant to the ACCC’s assessment.

Related publications

More information

Applying for an authorisation