The COVID-19 pandemic may have changed how businesses you deal with are behaving to respond to the pandemic. This guidance aims to help you to identify what might be anti-competitive behaviour and what you can do.
The ACCC wants to understand how changes in business behaviour during and post-COVID might be affecting you and encourage you to contact us. While we can’t take action in relation to all types of behaviour, your insights are essential in guiding our work so it has the most impact for small businesses.
Anti-competitive behaviour is certain types of behaviour that harm competition. This behaviour by another business could harm your business as it stops you from being able to compete effectively. In most cases, whether behaviour harms competition depends on a broad range of circumstances.
During the COVID-19 pandemic
- Has a supplier said you cannot sell a product below a particular price, so that the supplier can better respond to changing market conditions due to COVID-19?
- Has a buyer said you're not allowed to supply to its competitor because the buyer wants to ensure it has access to enough stock during COVID-19?
- Did another business make a long term arrangement with you, which you only agreed to because of current COVID-19 market shocks?
- Did your competitor want you to share information so that you can both manage supply or demand shocks due to COVID-19?
- Has your competitor asked you to agree on prices on goods/services you both supply?
- Has your competitor asked you to agree to divide up which markets or customers you each service in order to manage demand or supply issues?
- Did your competitor ask you to coordinate on bids or tenders in response to emergencies?
There is an exception where competing businesses have been granted an authorisation by the ACCC that allows them to cooperate. The authorisation must be granted before businesses engage in this behaviour.
For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic the ACCC granted authorisations to some businesses allowing them to cooperate to ensure medical or food supply.
If you think another business is behaving in a way that stops you from competing:
- report a small business issue via our web form
- call our Small Business Helpline on 1300 302 021 (Monday to Friday from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm AEST/AEDT).
The ACCC can:
- use the information you provide to identify and investigate patterns of behaviour that may harm competition
- investigate alleged behaviour affecting small businesses
- take certain actions in cases of widespread small business detriment.
- act on your behalf or provide you with legal advice on your rights and obligations under the law
- rule whether anti-competitive behaviour has occurred. Ultimately, only a court or tribunal (not the ACCC) can make this decision.