The ACCC has appealed against the Federal Court's decision to clear ANZ
of price fixing.
The Federal Court last month dismissed allegations that ANZ
had breached the price fixing provisions of the Trade Practices Act 1974 (now Competition and Consumer Act 2010) through its conduct with Mortgage Refunds.
The ACCC had alleged that in 2004 ANZ
had required Mortgage Refunds to agree to limit the amount of the refund it could provide to its customers in respect of arranging ANZ
It was alleged that ANZ
made and gave effect to an agreement where it would only allow Mortgage Refunds to continue to be accredited to offer ANZ
mortgage products if it agreed to limit any refund it paid to its customers to $600, which would allow ANZ
branches to match the deal if they chose to waive the ANZ
loan establishment fee.
The ACCC alleged that this amounted to price fixing because ANZ
and Mortgage Refunds were competitors in the market for the provision of loan arrangement services.
On November 18 the Federal Court found that ANZ
did not participate in a market for the provision of loan arrangement services and consequently that ANZ
and Mortgage Refunds were not competitors in this market. As a result, ANZ
’s conduct was found not to amount to a price fixing agreement and Justice Dowsett dismissed the ACCC’s application.
Rod Sims, ACCC Chairman, said at the time of the dismissal that anti-competitive agreements between competitors are a priority for the ACCC.
“When businesses seek to fix, control or maintain the prices, rebates or discounts offered by their competitors, this can prevent or hinder competition, forcing up prices and reducing choices for consumers.
“In this case, the ACCC was concerned that the conduct affected price competition, which would ultimately impact upon consumers.
“It was especially significant that this conduct took place in the market for mortgage arrangement services, as home loans are a major cost for many people,” says Sims.
The ACCC declined to comment further on its appeal.