Informal merger reviews

  • Merger parties can seek the ACCC’s view on whether a proposed merger is considered likely to substantially lessen competition, through the informal merger review process.
  • The ACCC’s view at the conclusion of the informal review process doesn’t protect parties from legal action by the ACCC or third parties.

What the ACCC does

  • We investigate mergers that have the potential to raise competition concerns.
  • We provide our view on the competition issues that may result from a merger.
  • We can apply to the court to stop a merger if we think it is likely to substantially lessen competition.

What the ACCC can't do

  • We can't oppose mergers for reasons that aren’t competition related and do not result from the merger.
  • We can't oppose mergers that reduce competition unless the effect is substantial.

About informal merger reviews

The informal merger review process lets merger parties seek the ACCC’s view on whether a proposed merger or acquisition is likely to substantially lessen competition.

There is no legislation supporting this process. It has developed over time to provide a pathway for merger parties to seek our view before a merger occurs.

Unlike the formal merger authorisation process, the informal merger review process doesn’t protect merger parties from possible legal action by the ACCC or other parties.

Contacting us to discuss a proposed merger

We encourage merger parties to contact the ACCC as early as possible when a merger is being contemplated and it potentially raises competition issues.

We can discuss possible competition issues and review options.

This may be done on a confidential basis.

Contact us by:

How an informal review is started

Parties can request an informal merger review

Merger parties can notify the ACCC and ask for an informal review by making a submission with relevant information about their proposed merger.

The Informal merger review process guidelines lists the information required in the submission and the process we follow.

There is no fee for an informal merger review.

We can begin our own review

The ACCC can also start an informal review in response to information from other sources, such as:

  • people who have made a complaint to the ACCC
  • information from Australian and overseas regulators 
  • our own monitoring activities.

We can investigate proposed mergers as well as completed mergers.

Deciding the type of review to conduct

After receiving a submission, we consider if a public merger review is required.

A public merger review is generally conducted when:

  • the merger is in the public domain
  • we consider that the merger raises competition concerns
  • we need information from market participants to help it reach a view.

If we are satisfied that there is a low risk of the merger substantially lessening competition, we may decide that a public review isn’t necessary. These mergers are described as being ‘pre-assessed’. They can often be considered confidentially or sometimes will be subject to targeted inquiries. They are not published on the ACCC website.

Public informal merger reviews and decisions are published on the Public informal merger reviews register.

We publish the indicative timeline and expected decision date for public merger reviews that we conduct. 

When we investigate a merger that has already been completed, we don’t include the details on our register or post a timeline. Completed mergers are investigated on an enforcement basis.

Our approach to reviewing mergers

When we review a merger, we apply the ACCC’s analytical and evaluative framework. It is set out in the ACCC’s merger guidelines.

See Merger guidelines 2008 for the:

  • framework we apply when reviewing mergers
  • factors we consider relevant
  • role of enforceable undertakings used to remedy competition concerns.

See Media merger guidelines 2017 for information specific to our approach to media mergers.

Possible outcomes of an informal review

The possible outcomes of an informal merger review are:

  1. We decide not to oppose the merger.
    While this doesn’t provide protection from legal action, it provides a significant degree of comfort to merger parties.
     
  2. We decide not to oppose the merger, subject to a court enforceable undertaking offered by the merger parties to address the competition concerns identified by the ACCC.
    The court enforceable undertaking places obligations on the merger parties to remedy the competition concerns, for example, by divesting a business or certain assets.
     
  3. We decide to oppose the merger.
    If we reach the view that a merger is likely to substantially lessen competition and the merger parties don’t agree to modify or abandon the merger, we can apply to the court for orders. This may include an injunction, divestiture or penalties.

See also