The Rigging of the ACCC

By Johns, Gary | Review - Institute of Public Affairs, December 2002 | Go to article overview

The Rigging of the ACCC


Johns, Gary, Review - Institute of Public Affairs


THE Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's (ACCC) prime role is to ensure that competition prevails within the rule of law. That's the best way of ensuring the consumer gets the best possible value for money. It is the retailer who is the agent that looks after the interests of the consumer. The retailer seeks out the best supply sources, gets the product or service to a place where it can be conveniently accessed and does so at the best possible price. The retailer does this because, in a competitive system, if she doesn't, the customer will find better value elsewhere and the retailer will go out of business.

The ACCC's formation, however, reflected another stream of thought: that the market had to be managed because it was a producers' mechanism and therefore inimical to the interests of consumers. The Commission's mandate reflected a lack of commitment to the view that competition, through the rigorous enforcement of trade practices law, would be good for consumers. It also saw prices surveillance as an end in itself rather than as a tool for observing the conditions of competition. This lack of faith reflected the lobbying by consumerist organizations that had become highly politicized and anti-business. It also opened the way for this consumerist lobby to have increased influence. The deputy head of the ACCC and its predecessor (the Trade Practices Commission) was Allan Asher, who cut his teeth in politics by taking over the rather somnolent Australian Consumers Association and providing political assistance to the ALP. Some have now elevated the deputy position into one `traditionally' reserved for a consumerist warlord. The appointment of Louise Sylvan of the Australian Consumers Association, which is currently being mooted, would cement this idea. It would also confirm the Commission's lack of faith in competition as the key means of safeguarding the interests of consumers, and further inject politics into the administration of competition law.

There are few simple consumer-- versus-producer issues that the Commission considers. Each involves some measure of trade-off between consumers. For example, in product liability issues, a too strict interpretation of liability may deny some consumers products they may desire, or at least raise the price or availability of the good or service. The question is one of assigning, as well as minimizing, risk. Invariably, the impact will vary between consumers, not just between consumers and producers. Take another example, if petrol were to be taxed so as to incorporate the cost of air pollution, or indeed if cars were taxed on the distance travelled-which is not to suggest that the level of tax is not already sufficient to compensate for externalities-the impact on consumers would be different than at present. Those who needed to travel further would pay more. The impact would be felt more by those on low incomes. There is a distribution of costs between consumers to consider. How could a consumer representative hope to represent the many sides to this issue? In a democratic society such as ours, it is Parliament that should decide issues of the distribution of costs and benefits between consumers, if indeed equity issues are to be considered. Having considered its laws, the Parliament should expect the law to be administered without fear or favour, without further lobbying, especially by a deputy-commissioner.

The flaw in the structure of the Commission is that it explicitly privileges a consumer lobby, and demonstrates that it does not trust its own laws designed to make the market work for competition. Worse, the appointment of an ACA representative will privilege a certain kind of consumer. In reality, the ACA represents a very small proportion of the consuming public'-less than 400 people and fewer consumers than Woolworths services every minute of every day of the year.

There is, however, no single consumer voice. People's interests are as varied on consumer matters as they are on almost any other issue. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Rigging of the ACCC
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.