About exemptions

  • A business that is planning activity that will or may breach competition law can seek an exemption.
  • An exemption gives a business protection from legal action over the conduct.
  • Exemptions are only given for conduct that doesn't substantially lessen competition or that has a net public benefit.
  • There are different exemption processes for different activities.

What the ACCC does

  • We assess and grant exemptions.

  • We also approve certification trade marks.

  • We give businesses information about exemptions and guidance on exemptions processes.

What the ACCC can't do

  • We don’t give legal advice.

Purpose of exemptions

Australian competition law recognises that, in some circumstances, activities that might otherwise be anti-competitive:

  • do not actually harm competition, or
  • have a net public benefit.

Exemptions makes it possible for such activities to go ahead.

A business that is planning an activity that will or may break certain parts of competition law can seek an exemption. This gives the business protection from legal action for the activity.

The ACCC only exempts activities that have a net public benefit or won’t substantially lessen competition. Which of these tests the ACCC applies depends on which provisions of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 the conduct is seeking exemption from.

The different exemption processes

There are different exemption processes for different conduct and arrangements.

    Authorisation process

    Authorisation is the process generally used for activities that will or may break competition law on:

    Authorisation is typically sought for:

    • codes of conduct
    • industry levies
    • collaboration between competitors
    • coordination of a logistics chain
    • some collective bargaining, where this is not covered by the small business collective bargaining class exemption and where notification isn't suitable.

    Notification process

    Notification is typically used for:

    Class exemption

    The ACCC can make a class exemption to cover all instances of a given activity.

    Businesses planning activity that is covered by a class exemption can proceed without seeking authorisation or lodging a notification.

    There is an active class exemption for small business collective bargaining. Groups can self-assess whether their planned activities fit within the class exemption and, if so, submit a one-page notice form.

    Export agreement notification

    Export agreements can be exempt from most competition law provisions.

    Businesses must notify the ACCC within 14 days of making the agreement.

    Certification trade marks

    Certification trade marks show consumers that a product or service meets a particular standard.

    Certification trade marks need to be approved by the ACCC. We consider whether competition concerns may arise from the certification trade mark rules.

    If you're not sure which exemption process to use

    Read our guidance

    We recommend you read our guidance on the exemption processes:

    Contact us for advice

    Businesses are encouraged to contact us before seeking an exemption for advice on the most suitable process for their planned activity. We can also provide guidance on the application.

    Call 02 6243 1368 or email exemptions@accc.gov.au.

    See also

    Competition and anti-competitive behaviour

    Mergers