Competition and the pandemic

Extraordinary times sometimes require extraordinary responses. The authorisation provisions in Australia’s competition law have enabled the ACCC to react quickly and flexibly to this dreadful pandemic and allow some competitors to cooperate temporarily to address more effectively the economic challenges we now face. These interventions have shown the Australian Government and community that competition law is not an end in itself but exists to boost economic welfare. Just as in these amazing times some cooperation between competitors can be beneficial, this is clearly the exception to the normal rules. Authorising temporarily some cooperation amongst competitors has enhanced the ACCC’s advocacy “voice” to preserve and promote longer term competition and so improve Australia’s chances of a speedy economic recovery.

This dreadful pandemic has caused enormous personal hardship; it has claimed many lives and caused massive economic disruption and loss of livelihoods. The pandemic has also generated new debates or, more accurately, has played heavily into existing debates on competition policy and the approach to enforcing competition law. I will explain this, and the ACCC’s response. To me, two thought leaders more than others laid the basis of competition policy. Adam Smith taught us that the pursuit of self-interest provides a better basis for organising economic activity than central planning, and that intense competition is critical for the “invisible hand” to make the pursuit of self-interest work for the greater good. Joseph Schumpeter taught us the importance of “creative destruction”: rather

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  • Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (Canberra)


Rod Sims, Competition and the pandemic, November 2020, Concurrences N° 4-2020, Art. N° 96684,

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