Fair trading only a dream for many small business operators


Trading conditions for small business owners in Victoria are not as fair as they should be, claims the Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce (VACC).

A major VACC investigation has uncovered hundreds of instances where large businesses have abused their power, making trading conditions difficult for many small-to-medium-sized business owners. In some cases, this has led to operators closing their businesses with a serious loss of employment.

VACC receives regular reports from its automotive business-owner members who experience unfair and anti-competitive commercial behaviour by large businesses and franchisors. Major sectors impacted include mechanical repairers, panel repairers, and vehicle dealerships.

Reported unfair practices include:

• A denial of the right of independent vehicle repairers to access critical vehicle repair information from vehicle manufacturers

• Anti-competitive business practices drafted within franchise agreements by some franchisors along with a disregard for the provisions contained within the Franchise Code of Conduct

• The flouting of anti-competitive provisions contained within the Australian Consumer Law by large companies against small business.

“Such behaviours essentially amount to ‘corporate bullying’ by large firms against small business and limit the ability of small business operators to compete efficiently and on fair terms within respective markets,” said VACC Chief Executive Officer, Geoff Gwilym.

“To facilitate a fairer trading environment, VACC argues there is a strong need for a refined regulatory model that provides the means of collaboration between government agencies, that is further enhanced by a federal body whose primary function will be to oversee the process and arbitrate as necessary. An example of this would be the independent oversight of franchise agreements, before they are signed-off by franchisees.

“This enhanced regulatory structure would help ensure transparent and consistent decision-making and limit unfair and anti-competitive behaviour against small business and other market participants,” said Mr Gwilym.


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