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ACCC launches initial investigation into rebates and discounts in outdoor advertising

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has launched an initial investigation into the outdoor advertising sector, to assess whether the use of rebates and discounts are in breach of the Competition and Consumer Act.

Mumbrella understands a number of operators were contacted with a request to provide information to help form a view as to whether advertising packages which heavily discount or provide particular geographical regions for free are in breach of the Competition and Consumer Act.

The ACCC has raised concerns over rebates and discounts in outdoor advertising

Under the Competition and Consumer Act’s exclusive dealing provisions, corporations with a large degree of power are not allowed to operate in a way which would lessen competition in the market. The Act also prevents corporations from providing services at a price, if it means the person receiving the services cannot work directly or indirectly with another competitor.

Another section of the Act prohibits corporations from giving or allowing discounts, allowances, rebates or credit on their services, on the condition the person will not acquire the same services from another competitor.

Exclusive dealing and engaging in trade which is misleading or deceptive or making false or misleading representations about supply of services is also prohibited.

Currently, the ACCC investigation is in the first assessment stage. The investigations typically commence and are completed within a three month period. Depending on the information found, the investigation will either be closed or escalated to an in-depth investigation.

The ACCC had no comment on the investigation when approached by Mumbrella, only saying: “The ACCC regularly engages with operators in a variety of sectors across the Australian economy.”

The Outdoor Media Association declined to comment.

The investigation follows the ACCC’s clearance of two major outdoor mergers at the end of last year, between Ooh Media and Adshel, and JC Decaux and APN Outdoor respectively. At the time, the ACCC said the two mergers would not substantially lessen competition.

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