Small businesses wanting to jointly buy electricity, or groups of farmers wanting to bargain with supermarkets, may no longer need to seek the approval of the competition watchdog.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is seeking views on a “class exemption” that would allow small businesses to collectively negotiate with their suppliers and processors without first having to seek the commission’s approval.
It would only apply to businesses and independent contractors which form, or are members of, a bargaining group, and each had an aggregated turnover of less than $10 million in the financial year before the bargaining group was formed.
As well, all franchisees and fuel retailers governed by either the Franchising Code of Conduct or the Oil Code of Conduct would be able to collectively negotiate with their franchisor, regardless of their aggregated turnover.
The ACCC can make a “class exemption” if it is satisfied that the conduct is unlikely to substantially lessen competition or is likely to result in a net public benefit.
The watchdog estimates this would cover about 98.5 per cent of Australian businesses.
Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Kate Carnell said it was good news for small business.
“Franchisees in particular will see tangible benefits as they band together to bargain for better outcomes on pricing and contract terms,” she said.
“It’s another important step towards levelling the playing field for small business.”