Today marks the first day the long-awaited criminal cartel laws enter force in Australia. The news laws create new civil and criminal offences for engaging in cartel conduct. Cartel participants now risk up to 10 years jail for making or giving effect to cartel provisions, defined (in s 44ZZRD(2)!) to include price-fixing (this replaces s 45A which has been repealed), bid-rigging, restricting outputs and market division between competitors. Despite the flaws in the drafting of the laws, it is appropriate to treat cartels as criminal and the law should be welcomed.
The Trade Practices Act (TPA) is too big and too complicated. The Government has introduced phase I of their two-phase plan to implement a new Australian Consumer Law which will bulk up the Act even further (the Bill alone runs to 84 pages). The adds to the additional 90 pages of statutory text generated by the recent passage of the criminal cartel act. It cannot go on ... the annotated acts are bursting at their seems.
The Trade Practices (Australian Consumer Law) Bill 2009 was introduced into Parliament last month and contains the new unfair terms laws which, if passed, will enter into force on 1 January 2009. They are, however, considerably watered down from the original proposed unfair terms laws and the Government has provided insufficient explanation for this change.