The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a rush of applications to the ACCC seeking to authorise coordination as between competitors which might otherwise contravene provisions of the Competition and Consumer Act (CCA).
The ACCC has responded quickly and dedicated significant staff to assess these applications. As of 8 April 2020, the ACCC has made 16 COVID-19 interim authorisation determinations. More will follow.
In granting interim authorisations, the ACCC has recognised that it may not be possible for applicants to be precise about the conduct which is to be authorised, given the uncertain nature of the pandemic and the benefits associated with speed and flexibility.
While each application will be considered on its own merits, ACCC practice to date demonstrates that the ACCC is prepared to authorise broadly described conduct where the parties must notify the ACCC of agreements entered into under the terms of the authorisation and respond to future ACCC requests for information. As a result, the ACCC will continue to have a central role in determining the scope of arrangements as between competitors to address supply chain, logistics and resource availability and consumer relief efforts arising from the pandemic.
Please see our more detailed briefing for an overview of the ACCC’s current approach to COVID-19 authorisation applications, as well as other ways in which competition law risk for industry coordination might be managed. We have included a detailed summary of the COVID-19 interim authorisations granted by the ACCC to date, grouped by sector, and also set out some guidance on how to approach industry discussions prior to any authorisation decision of the ACCC.