We published an article outlining the collective bargaining class exemption for small to medium businesses approved by the ACCC earlier this year. This exemption came into effect on 3 June 2021 and allows eligible small and medium businesses to engage in collective bargaining with their suppliers without being in breach of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Cth).
The ACCC has now published guidelines on the process required for businesses that seek to utilise and rely on the exemption.
Eligible businesses will not automatically be granted the benefit of the exemption. Instead, each collective bargaining group seeking to rely on the exemption must complete a one-page form and submit it to the ACCC when the group is formed. If the group is eligible for the exemption, they will have legal protection to collectively bargain upon submission of the notice form. The ACCC will not review the notice form to provide approval or authority upon receipt; bargaining groups will receive a letter confirming receipt of their notice form.
The group must also provide this form to each target business that the group seeks to collectively bargain with when they first approach the target business about collective bargaining.
The ACCC’s Collective bargaining class exemption Guidelines provide important guidance for businesses in determining whether they are eligible for the exemption and how the exemption operates. Two features to note are that collective boycotts do not fall within the exemption, and that the exemption does not apply where the ACCC has previously denied or revoked authorisation for the same collective bargaining arrangements.
Businesses that fall outside the scope of the class exemption can still use the ACCC’s authorisation and notification processes to seek legal protection for collective bargaining activities.
This article was written by Special Counsel, Hayley Bowman. If you have any questions about collective bargaining, please contact Hayley.