ACCC Chairman Rod Sims addressed the 7th Seoul International Competition Forum today, hosted by the Korea Fair Trade Commission in Busan, Korea.
Mr Sims advocated the many benefits for consumers and the economy that came from integrating competition and consumer regulatory functions in a single agency. Less than a third of the world’s competition agencies have any form of a consumer protection role.
“Competition works best when consumers are informed and can make the right choices. Where firms compete on price and quality consumers must have reliable information on which to base their choice,” said Mr Sims.
A single competition and consumer regulator agency provided both a broad perspective and acted to identify and address the true cause of specific market issues. The Australian approach, adopted with the Trade Practices Act in 1974, had served Australia well.
Mr Sims argued that the efficiencies of the ACCC’s structure included data gathering on consumer and competition issues, allowed it to build intelligence on how they overlap. This allowed the ACCC to assess issues through both consumer protection and competition lenses and focus upon issues of economy wide significance.
The ACCC had also benefited from having a single set of investigative tools, helping to build a strong and experienced enforcement culture within the ACCC. It also ensured that the ACCC identified appropriate and timely remedies addressing the real harm.
Finally, Mr Sims argued that having a combined consumer and competition regulator had been critical in Australia to developing a national culture where many consumers, businesses and policy makers identified the ACCC as an active and responsive regulator.
The visit to Korea continues the renewed push for regional engagement in the Asia region by the competition regulator. The ACCC is actively promoting partnerships and cooperation in Asia to stamp out anticompetitive conduct affecting our region. This initiative was launched by Mr Sims in Singapore during his keynote speech to the Global Competition Review Competition Forum held in March this year.
The ACCC also engaged in education efforts and assisted in capacity building with other competition regulators including the New Zealand Commerce Commission through a number of forums including co-hosting workshops for ASEAN in Sydney and in Bangkok.
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