Small business guidance about refunds and cancellations due to COVID-19

Businesses will need to be aware of their rights and obligations when managing refunds and cancellations because of COVID-19, and the ACCC has issued guidance to assist small businesses to understand their rights and obligations under the Australian Consumer Law.

“We know a lot of small businesses are facing a very challenging time, but they still want to do the right thing by their customers,” ACCC Deputy Chair Mick Keogh said.

Asahi-CUB deal subject to cider and beer divestments

The Asahi Group Holdings Ltd’s (Asahi) proposed acquisition of Carlton & United Breweries (CUB) will not be opposed after Asahi has undertaken to divest two of its beer brands and three of its cider brands.

The brands to be sold are the Strongbow, Bonamy’s and Little Green cider brands and the Stella Artois and Beck’s beer brands. The future buyer or buyers of these assets will need to be approved by the ACCC.

NBN Co, telcos to coordinate on demand surge and consumer support package

The ACCC has granted interim authorisation allowing NBN Co and five retail service providers (RSPs) to work together to take measures necessary to keep Australia’s telecommunications networks operating effectively during the COVID-19 pandemic as well as support consumers and small businesses adversely impacted by the pandemic.

At the request of the Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, NBN Co and Australia’s five biggest retail service providers have formed a special working group, which includes Telstra, Optus, Vodafone Hutchison, TPG and Vocus.

Medicine wholesalers to co-operate on access to pharmaceutical products

Wholesalers of medicines will be able to co-operate to facilitate distribution of essential medication and pharmacy products after being granted interim authorisation by the ACCC.

This follows an application by the National Pharmaceutical Services Association (NPSA) to enable businesses to co-ordinate the supply, inventory management, distribution, logistics, and import of pharmaceuticals needed by consumers and hospitals.

Bunnings’ Adelaide Tools acquisition not opposed

The proposed acquisition of Adelaide Tools and Oaklands Mower Centre by Bunnings Group won’t be opposed, after the ACCC decided the transaction isn’t likely to substantially lessen competition.

The ACCC carefully assessed the acquisition’s impact in the Adelaide metropolitan area, given the competition between Bunnings and Adelaide Tools for retail supply of tools and equipment in Adelaide, amid concerns it might lessen competition.

Banks authorised to co-operate on loan relief and services

The ACCC has provided a second, conditional, interim authorisation for the Australian Banking Association (ABA) and banks to co-operate to provide supplementary relief packages for individuals and businesses affected by COVID-19.

The interim authorisation is conditional on banks providing details of any programs and arrangements to the ACCC before implementation, and seeking ACCC approval in some circumstances.

ACCC response to COVID-19 pandemic

The ACCC is highly conscious of the impact COVID-19 is having on Australian consumers and businesses, and has adjusted the focus of its regulatory activities accordingly.

Most businesses are facing severe disruption, particularly small businesses, and the future is uncertain for many. The ACCC will factor these circumstances into its consideration of competition matters in the short term to assist businesses to remain viable in the long term.

Proposal to set minimum advertised prices on power tools raises concerns

The ACCC plans to revoke a resale price maintenance notification lodged by power tool distributor Stanley Black & Decker, which wanted to set a minimum advertised price for Dewalt brand power tools, accessories and attachments.

Stanley Black & Decker lodged the resale price maintenance notification with the ACCC on 17 October 2019.

In a draft notice issued today, the ACCC proposes to revoke Stanley Black & Decker’s notification, because any public benefits from setting minimum advertised prices for the products would not outweigh the likely detriments.

1300 Australia to remove alleged unfair terms and refund excessive termination fees

1300 Australia has undertaken to amend its current and future contracts with small businesses and will refund part of the termination fees paid by small business customers, as a result of ACCC concerns that some of the contract terms were unfair.

The company sells ‘phonewords’, which are telephone numbers that also spell words on a keypad, such as ’13 POOL’ or ‘1300 PROPERTY’.

In a court-enforceable undertaking, 1300 Australia has acknowledged that some of the terms in its contracts may have been unfair, and committed to amend its contracts.

ACCC authorises Regional Express to coordinate with other airlines

The ACCC has today granted interim authorisation to Regional Express (Rex) allowing it to coordinate flight schedules with Virgin Australia and Qantas Airways on ten important regional flight routes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The interim authorisation will also enable Rex, QantasLink and Virgin to share revenue from providing services on the routes. Importantly, it is conditional on airlines charging fares no higher than those in place on February 1, 2020, meaning the airlines will not be able to coordinate to raise prices.