The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has granted authorisation to the Catholic Negotiating Alliance (CNA), a network of nine hospital and aged care service providers, to collectively negotiate with Funding Organisations (including private health funds) and suppliers of various goods and services.

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These goods and services include medical goods, cleaning, catering, banking and energy. CNA members can also share aggregated information for benchmarking to aid ongoing performance improvements.

“Collective negotiation is likely to result in cost savings by reducing the number of negotiations that need to take place and having better informed participants,” ACCC Commissioner Dr Jill Walker said.

The CNA also sought authorisation for the ability to collectively boycott suppliers to prevent them from ‘cherry picking’ individual members of the group while collective negotiations are under way.

“This limited collective boycott conduct will assist the CNA to avoid wasting resources on unproductive collective negotiations,” Dr Walker said.

The ACCC has granted authorisation for the CNA to engage in collective boycotts in very limited circumstances to address this issue. In particular, a supplier must first agree to participate in collective bargaining negotiations with a clear understanding that members of the collective bargaining group may agree not to deal with the supplier individually, while collective negotiations are on foot.

Any collective boycott will cease immediately if a supplier chooses not to continue with collective negotiations.

Authorisation provides statutory protection from court action for conduct that might otherwise raise concerns under the competition provisions of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010. Broadly, the ACCC may grant an authorisation when it is satisfied that the public benefit from the conduct outweighs any public detriment.

This decision is available on the Authorisations Register.

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