The head of Australia’s consumer watchdog says competition in the nation’s sector remains “fragile” while travel is disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking at an economic forum in Sydney on Tuesday, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chair Rod Sims outlined the regulator’s key priorities in 2021, which involved ensuring the country’s economy could rebound from the coronavirus slump.
Mr Sims said competition in the aviation sector remained weak due to restricted travel, with the watchdog poised to look at every detail of route changes made by operators.
The comments come after harsh rhetoric on Monday from Regional Express (Rex), which accused Qantas of trying to dominate regional flight routes, a claim the major carrier refuted.
“Competition in the aviation industry remains fragile and the ACCC is focused on behaviours that adversely affect the competitive process,” Mr Sims said in his speech.
“The ACCC will, for example, be closely monitoring the plans by the regional operator Rex to enter the major domestic routes, including those connecting Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, with a particular focus on Rex’s ability to access slots at Sydney Airport.”
Mr Sims was asked to weigh in on Facebook’s recent decision to block Australian news content, but would not comment as the media bargaining code legislation was before parliament.
The ACCC said it would keep a hawkish eye on the price settings of essential goods and services, such as electricity and telecommunications prices.
“Unfortunately we have had to take a considerable number of enforcement action in the electricity and telecommunications sectors in the last year, and this will likely continue in 2021,” Mr Sims said.
“Consumers saw their electricity prices rise enormously over many years; now they need to see them fall considerably. This is only fair.”