Consumers must come first in Harper’s new era for competition

From unlocking Uber to navigating around geo-blocks to stream Netflix, CHOICE has hailed the Final Report of the Competition Policy Review as the catalyst for delivering real consumer choice and empowering Australians in complex markets.

The consumer group has also sounded a warning note, saying the focus of reforms should be on sectors where competition will improve consumer welfare, citing human services as one area where caution is required.


“This is an ambitious and thorough report with the potential to reshape the competitive landscape for the coming decades,” says CHOICE CEO Alan Kirkland.

“As we debate Professor Harper’s many recommendations, our message to the Federal Government is to stay focused on the end-game for competition policy, which is making life better for Australians.”

“In areas like health, aged care and other essential human services, our priority must be consistent quality and access for Australians. In sectors like this, pursuing competition as an end in itself can actually do more harm than good.”

CHOICE strongly supports the Final Report’s recommendations relating to intellectual property, competition in the taxi industry, and consumer access to data.

“These reforms are about delivering Australian consumers better prices and services, especially where some domestic industries have long been shielded from competition,” Mr Kirkland says.

“This includes the ability to get around so-called online ‘geoblocks’ and access a wider range of products from overseas, removing barriers to parallel imports of cheaper goods, increased price competition in the pharmacy industry and removing regulatory barriers that prevent competition in the taxi sector.”

“We also welcome moves to give Australians access to their own consumption data, an approach that could help cut through the confusion and complexity in services like energy, banking and insurance,” Mr Kirkland says.

CHOICE says the key reforms for consumers recommended in the Competition Review include:

  • Prioritising the review of taxi industry regulations, with a view to removal and increased competition.
  • Addressing the ‘Australia Tax’ by reviewing intellectual property laws, allowing parallel importation of cheaper overseas goods, and enabling consumers to get around so-called online ‘geo-blocks’.
  • Enhanced competition in the pharmacy sector by removing restrictions on pharmacy ownership and locations.
  • Development of a framework that provides consumers with access to the data that they create in every day transactions, with appropriate tools to ensure that consumers can be empowered to make decisions based on what suits their situation best.
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