Price-fixing ruling angers small firms

Price-fixing ruling angers small firmsThe company at the centre of allegations that Boral had engaged in predatory price-cutting in the building materials industry is urging small business lobbyists to campaign against the recent High Court decision which cleared Boral of predatory behaviour.The call by C&M Brick is being heeded by the Council of Small Business of Australia and the National Association of Retail Grocers, a lobby group that has sway with the National Party.COSBOA’s chief executive, Mike Potter, said: “We are in the process of formulating letters to go to various politicians. We certainly feel that the High Court’s Boral decision has rendered Section 46 of the Trade Practices Act useless to small business.”In the meantime, C&M Brick’s director, John Ullner, has been lobbying politicians. Yesterday he approached Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock, who was in his area near Nowra, and he is hoping to talk to Small Business Minister, Joe Hockey, soon.Both COSBOA and Mr Ullner are hoping to persuade the government that the competition laws need toughening and are concerned that the Dawson committee, which has been reviewing the legislation, will recommend otherwise.The push by the small business lobby follows the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s statement to a Senate estimates committee last week that Section 46 of the Trade Practices Act could no longer protect small business from the power of big firms.The High Court found that Boral had not engaged in predatory pricing, and therefore had not breached Section 46, even though it aggressively cut its prices to below cost in the building materials market.”The intention of Section 46 was to protect small business but it doesn’t and a legislative fix is required,” Mr Potter said. Mr Ullner believes that Section 46, which is supposed to stop big business abusing their market power to push smaller competitors, is so weak that it threatens to undermine free enterprise in Australia.Despite the price-cutting pressure from Boral, Mr Ullner’s company survived.Still, he argued that C&M Brick almost folded. “We were struggling to keep our head above water,” he said.——————————————————————————–

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