The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has authorised a code of conduct for showmen subject to conditions that advance competition between showmen and bring benefits to consumers.
The authorisation* was sought by the Showmen's Guild of Australasia for its code, membership rules and for it to collectively negotiate on behalf of its members with show societies.
The Guild describes itself as a 'trade association for showmen' and represents showmen in the ACT, New South Wales, the Northern Territory and Queensland. Showmen are operators of sideshow amusements at agricultural shows.
The ACCC was concerned about the anti-competitive effects that arise from the operation of the code, rules and collective negotiation agreements.
To alleviate these concerns, the ACCC has imposed a number of conditions that require the Guild to make amendments to its code and its rules relating to membership of the Guild.
The conditions also outline the parameters for collective negotiation. Other conditions imposed as part of the authorisation are designed to enhance the net public benefit to consumers by improving the procedures for dealing with complaints by consumers.
"The ACCC believes these conditions will increase the potential for genuine competition between showmen and expand the choices for show societies and consumers", ACCC Chairman, Mr Graeme Samuel, said today.
The authorisation does not allow the Showmen's Guild to engage in any other type of anti-competitive conduct.
"The ACCC has also made it very clear to the Guild and to showmen that they must not agree to fix the price of their rides to consumers and must not collectively boycott any agricultural shows".
The ACCC's concerns over the arrangements include the allocation of space by the Guild to showmen in the sideshow area at the majority of agricultural shows. The arrangements give priority to Guild members and provide that Guild members can occupy the same space each year. The ACCC is of the view that the arrangements may restrict the ability of show societies to offer opportunities to non-Guild showmen and believes that the conditions imposed will overcome the anti-competitive effects of these arrangements.
The ACCC is also concerned that proposed arrangements to allow the Guild to negotiate on behalf of their members with show societies may have some anti-competitive effect.
"As a collective group the Guild is likely to have significant bargaining power in relation to small show societies who are often staffed by community volunteers and the Guild could drive a hard bargain that they may not have been able to as individual showmen".
The ACCC believes that provided the conditions are met, the operation of the Guild's Code, Rules and the ability for it to negotiate collectively on behalf of its members is likely to produce some benefits to the public.
"The Code, Rules and negotiation arrangements are likely to assist small show societies in organising their sideshow area, and will assist in reducing the costs and efforts for show societies in making arrangements with showmen who are often on the road, making it easier for show societies to run a successful show".
The ACCC has granted the authorisation for five years.
The ACCC also has a role in endorsing effective industry codes of conduct that aim to achieve best practice within an industry. The endorsement process is quite distinct from the authorisation process. The authorisation process is set out in the Trade Practices Act 1975 and only indicates that a code passes a certain legal test. Authorisation does not indicate that a code is best practice and, this authorisation can in no way be held out as endorsement or approval by the ACCC of the Showmen's Guild Code.
* The Trade Practices Act 1974 prohibits certain forms of anti-competitive agreements, including agreements between competitors that limit their ability to deal with whom they choose or on the terms they choose (including price). Authorisation provides immunity from court action under the Act arising from such agreements but can only be granted where the ACCC is satisfied that the public benefit flowing from the conduct outweighs any public detriment.
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