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 underpinning this process. It has developed over time to provide a way for merger parties to seek our view before a merger occurs.
If we reach a view that a merger is likely to substantially lessen competition and the parties don’t agree to modify or abandon the merger, we can take court action to prevent or unwind the merger.
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. However, a decision by the ACCC not to oppose a merger gives merger parties a level of comfort regarding our position.
Our position is based on information available at the time we make a decision. If the situation changes or more information becomes available, this position can change.
Contacting us to discuss a proposed merger
We encourage merger parties to contact the ACCC as early as possible when a merger is being considered 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:
Starting an informal review
Parties can ask the ACCC for a review
Merger parties can notify the ACCC and ask for an informal review by providing 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.
The ACCC can start its 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.
Our assessment of mergers
Our merger guidelines set out our framework for reviewing mergers.
Merger guidelines 2008 has information on how we review mergers, the factors we consider, and the role of enforceable undertakings used to remedy competition concerns.
Media merger guidelines 2017 has specific information about our approach to media mergers.
Mergers considered low risk
For each merger, the ACCC makes an initial assessment based on the information available to decide whether a public review is required.
If we are satisfied that there is a low risk that the merger will substantially lessen 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 are sometimes assessed after conducing targeted inquiries.
Information about mergers that are pre-assessed is generally not published on the ACCC website.
A large proportion of the mergers notified to the ACCC are pre-assessed through the informal review process.
Mergers requiring a public review
We generally conduct a public informal merger review when:
- the merger is in the public domain
- we consider that the merger raises potential competition concerns, and
- we need information from market participants to help us reach a view.
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.
Mergers that have already been completed
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.
Possible outcomes of an informal review
The possible outcomes of an informal public merger review are:
- We decide not to oppose the merger.
While this doesn’t provide protection from legal action, it provides a degree of comfort to merger parties.
- 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.
An undertaking places obligations on the merger parties to remedy the competition concerns, for example, by divesting a business or certain assets.
- 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 to prevent or unwind the merger. This may include an injunction, divestiture or penalties.