The Full Federal Court has decided that while an arrangement between Rural Press Limited, its subsidiary Bridge Printing Office Pty Ltd, and Waikerie Printing House Pty Ltd did not contain an exclusionary provision, it did have the purpose or effect of substantially lessening competition in the Murray Bridge market for regional newspapers in breach of section 45 of the Trade Practices Act 1974.
The court also decided that Rural Press and Bridge Printing did not misuse their market power in breach of section 46 of the Act.
The Full Court accepted the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's submissions that the trial judge should not have taken into account the parties' conduct during the hearing of the matter in fixing penalty. In assessing the penalties, the trial judge gave the parties credit for the "sensible and focussed conduct of the hearing itself".
Although the Full Court fixed the penalties at the same levels as those fixed by the primary Judge the penalties are now in relation to fewer contraventions.
"The ACCC notes that the court did not accept that Rural Press and Bridge Printing took advantage of their market power in their dealings with Waikerie Printing House", ACCC Chairman, Professor Allan Fels, said today. "However, the ACCC welcomes the court's finding that the arrangement entered into between the companies did breach section 45.
"The ACCC is also pleased that the court accepted the ACCC's submissions on penalties, and that it also held that Mr Ian Law, General Manager of Rural Press' Regional Publishing Division, and Mr Trevor McAuliffe, South Australian State Manager, were knowingly concerned in the contravention of section 45 by Rural Press and Bridge Printing.
"The decision, however, raises a number of questions about the application of sections 45 and 46 and the ACCC is considering its position on these matters".
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