The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has issued a draft determination proposing to grant conditional authorisation for local liquor accords operating in Queensland to adopt a pro-forma liquor accord developed by the Queensland Office of Liquor and Gaming (OLGR). The ACCC proposes authorisation for five years.

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The pro-forma liquor accord was first authorised by the ACCC in 2010. Liquor accords are agreements between licensed premises, local government, police and other local stakeholders to curb alcohol-related harms. They can contain various strategies, including to combat underage drinking, improve security for patrons and to promote the responsible service of alcohol.

The Queensland Government’s pro-forma liquor accord includes measures such as a ban on extreme discounts and promotions that encourage rapid or excessive drinking. Liquor accords that contain these types of price and supply restrictions may raise issues under the Competition and Consumer Act (2010) (the Act) and therefore require authorisation.*

“The ACCC recognises that there is a high level of community concern about harms caused by alcohol abuse including crime and violence, destruction of property and the impact on  hospital and police resources,” ACCC Commissioner Dr Jill Walker said.

“Allowing drinking venues in a local area to work together with stakeholders on these important issues is likely to result in public benefit.”

Only local liquor accords that are registered with the OLGR will be protected by the authorisation. The OLGR will register a local liquor accord if it is satisfied that any restrictions on the price or supply of drinks agreed by accord members are appropriate for their area.

Participation in local liquor accords is voluntary and accord bodies can choose to adopt the OLGR’s pro-forma accord in whole or part. At present the Townsville Liquor Accord Body is the only liquor accord where members have agreed on price and supply restrictions. The OLGR and Townsville Police have reported a reduction in anti-social and violent behaviour since these measures were introduced.

The ACCC understands that there are over 100 other local liquor accords in Queensland which do not include price and supply restrictions. These accords do not raise concerns under the Competition and Consumer Act (2010) and do not need to be registered.

The ACCC is seeking submissions from interested parties in relation to its draft determination, before making a final decision. Submissions are due by 4 September 2014.

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

Further information is available on the public register.

*In New South Wales, Victoria and the Northern Territory liquor accord agreements are exempt from the competition provisions of the Competition and Consumer Act through legislative exemptions enacted by these state and territory governments.

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Photo credit: Carrie Sloan

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