The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and the New Zealand Commerce Commission have agreed, in principle, to a protocol to enhance their cooperation in dealing with the review of trans-Tasman mergers.

The agreement follows a meeting in Melbourne on Friday between NZCC Chair, Ms Paula Rebstock, and ACCC Chairman, Mr Graeme Samuel.

The proposed protocol follows agreement earlier this year between the NZ Minister for Finance, Dr Michael Cullen, and the Australian Treasurer, Mr Peter Costello, to accelerate measures to remove barriers between the two countries' economies.

The governments have agreed to amend the Australian Trade Practices Act 1974 and the New Zealand Commerce Act 1986, respectively to allow the ACCC and the NZCC to exchange information gathered in the course of investigating competition and consumer protection matters under the two agencies' powers.

The proposed mergers protocol covers:

  • cooperation on specific transactions being considered by both agencies
  • merger reviews being considered by one agency, but where the other may be in a position to assist with that review, and
  • general cooperation and information exchange to assist the agencies to carry out their general merger review responsibilities.

The heads of the agencies welcomed the progress which was made at the meeting.

"The protocol builds on a number of practices which are already routinely employed by the Commerce Commission and the ACCC", Ms Rebstock said. "It is based on current good practices by setting out further responsibilities and mechanisms for cooperation between the agencies".

Mr Samuel said such cooperation could include coordination of agency processes to synchronise the timing of merger reviews where possible, share merger party and third party information held by each agency (subject to confidentiality), share agency analysis and assessment of transactions and, from time to time, gather information on behalf of the other agency.
Further discussions will be held between the agencies to finalise the protocol.