The Federal Court has dismissed proceedings brought by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) that ANZ breached price fixing laws.
The case was brought to the courts by the ACCC after ANZ allegedly threatened to remove accreditation for Mortgage Refunds Pty Ltd unless the brokers capped their consumer refunds at $600.
This would allow ANZ branches to match the deal if they chose to waive the ANZ loan establishment fee, according to the ACCC.
The court case looked into whether or not this amounted to price fixing, since ANZ and brokers are competitors in the market for the provision of loan arrangement services.
During the case, a former Mortgage Refunds broker told the court the implications of the arrangement: “The imposition of the upper limit for ANZ loans was contrary to this basic business principle,” the judgement reads.
“Some customers insisted that they be paid the same refunds as were paid for other home loan products in accordance with Mortgage Refunds’ advertisements.”
However, the Court found that ANZ did not participate in a market for the provision of loan arrangement services and consequently that ANZ and Mortgage Refunds were not competitors in this market.
As a result, ANZ’s conduct was found not to amount to a price fixing agreement.
“Anti-competitive agreements between competitors are a priority for the ACCC,” said Rod Sims, ACCC chairman. “When businesses seek to fix, control or maintain the prices, rebates or discounts offered by their competitors, this can prevent or hinder competition, forcing up prices and reducing choices for consumers.
“In this case, the ACCC was concerned that the conduct affected price competition, which would ultimately impact upon consumers.
“It was especially significant that this conduct took place in the market for mortgage arrangement services, as home loans are a major cost for many people,” Mr Sims said.