The Paradox of Australian competition policy: contextualizing the coexistence of economic efficiency and public benefit

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Abstract

Although competition law is viewed as being focussed on fostering competition, there is more depth to it. Australian competition policy has been designed to provide space for public benefits, whereby prima facie anticompetitive conducts that eventually result in a public benefit can continue. This is a unique feature which reveals the importance of having flexibility in legislative design and the benefits of case by case approach. The objective of this article is to identify the types of public benefits that have been recognized through the authorization process in Australian competition law. The article uses an innovative methodology to study 244 authorization determinations made between 1976 and 2010 and analyses them in their economic and social context. This study demonstrates that the authorization process has been a valuable one which has allowed competition policy to operate effectively while accommodating many wider concerns. Conducts that promote competition or encourage cost savings have been recognized alongside those which enhance product safety or encourages environmental protection, demonstrating the complexity and breadth of competition law in practice. This type of decision making can be explained as a triumph of practice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)133-164
Number of pages32
JournalWorld competition : law and economics review
Volume36
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2013

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