The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) recently entered into a new memorandum of understanding with its counterpart competition agencies from five other countries in order to share intelligence and investigate techniques to better coordinate competition investigations across borders, including, in particular, those involving companies operating in the digital economy.
The Multilateral Mutual Assistance and Cooperation Framework for Competition Authorities (MMAC), which came into effect on 2 September 2020, was also signed (virtually) by the US Department of Justice, US Federal Trade Commission, the UK Competition and Markets Authority, the New Zealand Commerce Commission and the Competition Bureau Canada.
Whilst the ACCC has already been cooperating closely with its counterpart authorities within the framework of the OECD and the International Competition Network for over 20 years now, and is a party to a number of similar treaties and memorandums of understanding, the MMAC is designed to further strengthen the levels of coordination between these competition agencies in order to enhance the conduct of their investigations. The participating agencies committed to implement a number of practical measures that include:
exchanging information on the development of competition issues, policies and laws, and experience on competition advocacy and outreach activities;
enhancing the effectiveness of these competition agencies through the provision of advice or training in areas of mutual interest;
sharing best practice tips and techniques on areas of mutual interest, including, enforcement methods and priorities;
sharing confidential information with each other (that is permitted to be disclosed by law or a waiver of confidentiality);
executing search and seizure warrants at the request of an agency; and
assisting with cross-border evidence gathering activities.
The ACCC expects that the strengthened levels of cooperation between the various agencies through the operation of the MMAC will be of particular assistance in its existing and future investigations of digital platforms, which are being closely scrutinised and monitored by many regulators around the world, including the ACCC. It is worthy to note that the ACCC is in the process of developing a mandatory code of conduct to address bargaining power imbalances between Australian news media businesses and digital platforms.
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