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Commission/ACCC agreement on mergers review

Media Release

Issued 24 July 2006/013

Commerce Commission/ACCC in-principle agreement to co-operative Trans-Tasman mergers review protocol

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

The agreement follows a commission-to-commission meeting in Melbourne on Friday led by Commerce Commission Chair, Ms Paula Rebstock, and ACCC Chairman, Mr Graeme Samuel.

The proposed protocol follows agreement earlier this year between the New Zealand 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 New Zealand Commerce Act 1986 and the Australian Trade Practices Act 1974, respectively to allow the Commerce Commission and the ACCC to exchange information gathered in the course of investigating competition and consumer protection matters under the two agencies' powers.

The proposed mergers protocol covers:

- co-operation 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 co-operation and information exchange to assist the agencies to carry out their general merger review responsibilities.

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

"The protocol builds on a number of practices that 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 co-operation between the agencies".

Mr Samuel said such co-operation 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.

At the meeting, the two commissions also discussed other areas where co-operation may be desirable. These included:

- enforcement of both consumer law and competition law, particularly with effect to cartel behaviour; and

- the exchange of best practice in regulating the energy and telecommunications sectors.


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