The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has decided to grant interim authorisation to LPO Group ltd (LPO Group) and its current and future licensed post office members to collectively negotiate, enter into and give effect to agreements with Australia Post. The scope of interim authorisation is limited to licensee payments and commissions as part of the annual payment review, as well as remuneration for any new services introduced by Australia Post.
"Interim authorisation will allow the applicants and Australia Post to engage in and give effect to collective bargaining arrangements. However, all discussions are voluntary and it is up to each party decide whether they would benefit from such negotiations," ACCC Deputy Chair Dr Michael Schaper said.
"The ACCC is granting interim authorisation as it is unlikely to result in harm to the competitive process or to interested parties while ACCC consideration of the application continues."
With interim authorisation in place the LPO Group will seek to collectively negotiate with Australia Post, enter into and give effect to agreements on a range of issues as part of the annual review, including changes to licensee payments and commissions, as well as the appropriate level of remuneration for any new services introduced by Australia Post during the period of interim authorisation.
The LPO Group currently consists of about 20 per cent of the total number of Licensed Post Offices (LPO) in Australia. However, new members may join and current members may opt-in or opt-out of the negotiation group and collective negotiations at any time, and can continue to undertake individual negotiations with Australia Post.
"The ACCC is considering information provided by interested parties and expects to publish a draft determination on the substantive application in August 2017," Dr Schaper said.
The ACCC will give the Applicants and interested parties the opportunity to provide a further submission on the draft determination before the ACCC issues its final decision later this year.
Further details are available here: LPO Group Limited - Authorisations - A91583 & A91584
Australia Post currently has a network of 2881 LPOs. LPOs are private businesses which are granted an indefinite license by Australia Post to operate a post office using Australia Post products, branding and systems. LPOs provide a number of products and services as part of Australia Post's retail network. Australia Post provides each LPO with specified fees, commissions or discounts in relation to these products and services.
Authorisation provides statutory protection from court action for conduct that might otherwise raise concerns under the competition provisions of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010. Broadly, the ACCC may grant an authorisation when it is satisfied that the public benefit resulting from the conduct outweighs any public detriment.
The ACCC's interim authorisation does not provide immunity for the Applicants to participate in any collective boycott activities. It also does not impose any obligation on either negotiating party to participate in collective bargaining.
The ACCC may review its decision on interim authorisation at any time. The ACCC's decision in relation to interim authorisation should not be taken to be indicative of whether or not final authorisation will be granted by the ACCC.
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