The Federal Court has dismissed allegations of anti-competitive behaviour and price fixing against ANZ.
The proceedings were brought by the ACCC in relation to conduct in 2004 in which the bank required Mortgage Refunds to limit the amount of refund it could provide customers when arranging ANZ home loans.
The bank allegedly threatened to withdraw ANZ accreditation for Mortgage Refunds unless the company agreed to limit refunds to $600 or less, allowing ANZ branch staff to match the deal by waiving the ANZ loan establishment fee.
Justice John Dowsett found the conduct did not amount to price fixing as ANZ did not participate in the market for the provision of loan arrangement services and therefore was not in direct competition with Mortgage Refunds.
The ruling was one of six competiton cases expected to be taken up by the ACCC this year. In the previous two years the ACCC has taken up a total of four competition cases.
ACCC chairman said anti-competitive agreements between competitors are a priority for the regulator.
“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,” he told the AFR.
“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.”
The judgment is extensive, and the ACCC will give it careful consideration.