The Multilateral Mutual Assistance and Cooperation Framework for Competition Authorities (MMAC), was signed virtually by the US Department of Justice, US Federal Trade Commission, the UK Competition and Markets Authority, the New Zealand Commerce Commission, the Competition Bureau Canada and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and came into effect on Wednesday.
“The global economy is increasingly interconnected and many large companies, especially in the digital economy, now operate internationally. Competition regulators have to work together to ensure the companies comply with competition and consumer laws,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said.
“Working more deeply with the highly-experienced competition investigators in other countries, who are often dealing with the same companies or industries, will greatly assist in gathering evidence across borders.
“We expect this cooperation will particularly benefit our existing and ongoing investigations of digital platforms, which are being closely watched by many agencies globally.
“Tackling anti-competitive conduct by multinational companies is critical to national economies and this international cooperation will benefit consumers and businesses in Australia, the United States, Canada and New Zealand.”
The ACCC says the MMAC is a memorandum of understanding that will improve coordinated and pro-active informal cooperation and assistance between all the parties - and the framework includes a template ‘Model Agreement’ that the agencies can use to establish cooperation arrangements focused on investigative assistance such as the provision of mutual assistance, sharing of confidential information, executing searches and seizures and cross-border evidence gathering.
Sims said the ACCC has already been cooperating closely with other competition agencies within the framework of the OECD and International Competition Network for over 20 years, for example on international shipping cartel matters.
“The new cooperation agreement complements our existing formal and informal cooperation agreements with competition agencies in the US, Canada and NZ. It will improve the effectiveness and efficiency of competition investigations that span multiple jurisdictions,” Sims said.
Sims noted that in April 2019, the ACCC signed a cooperation agreement with the US Federal Bureau of Investigation to combat cartels and other anti-competitive behaviour.