3 December 2008

Bowen Introduces Cartels Legislation into Parliament

The Competition Policy and Consumer Affairs Minister, Chris Bowen MP, today introduced into the Parliament a package of measures providing criminal sanctions for serious cartel conduct.

"The Rudd Government is pushing ahead with its reforms that will see 10-year jail terms for company executives involved with serious cartel conduct," Mr Bowen said.

"Companies that collude to fix prices are robbing other businesses and consumers.

"The introduction of this legislation into Parliament fulfils another important election commitment by the Government.

The Trade Practices (Cartel Conduct and Other Measures) Bill 2008 includes the following provisions:

  • Individuals involved in hard-core cartel conduct face a maximum gaol term on conviction of 10 years, and a fine of $220,000. For corporations, the maximum fine will be the greater of $10 million, or three times the value of the benefit obtained as a result of committing the offence.
  • Amends the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979 to enable the ACCC to seek to use intercepted material in relation to cartel investigations. Telecommunications interception powers can be a means of finding evidence of the 'directing minds' behind corporate criminal behaviour.

"This is a long overdue and necessary reform that concentrates the minds of those contemplating such egregious activity - if you engage in a cartel you run the risk not just of a fine or bad publicity, but a 10-year jail term.

"This legislation follows extensive consultation on a draft exposure bill and discussion paper, with round table discussions with trade practices and criminal law experts.

"The Coalition failed to act on cartels despite the recommendations of the Dawson Review in 2003, Peter Costello's promises to introduce changes in February 2005 and 15 separate warnings from the ACCC."