Collective bargaining class exemption

Summary

The ACCC is seeking views on a potential ‘class exemption’ that would provide eligible small businesses, agribusinesses and franchisees with legal protection to collectively bargain with customers or suppliers, without having to apply to the ACCC.

A class exemption is a way for the ACCC to grant businesses an exemption from competition law for certain ‘classes of conduct’ that may otherwise carry a risk of breaching competition laws, but:

  • do not substantially lessen competition, and/or
  • are likely to result in overall public benefits.

This class exemption relates to collective bargaining, which is a process that allows competing businesses, such as farmers or retailers, to jointly negotiate with customers or suppliers over common issues (e.g. terms, conditions and/or prices). While collective bargaining may ordinarily breach competition laws, a class exemption would provide a ‘safe harbour’ for eligible businesses to collectively bargain without breaching the competition law. It would operate alongside the ACCC’s existing ‘authorisation’ and ‘notification’ processes, which a business that falls outside the class exemption could still use to seek legal protection on a case-by-case basis.

A Discussion Paper is available below, explaining the background and the specific questions we are seeking views on. Please email your comments to adjudication@accc.gov.au by COB 21 September 2018 with the subject “Collective bargaining class exemption – submission”.

Any submissions received will also be available below.

Initial public consultation