PIAC lodged a submission to the Senate inquiry on the legislation to abolish Limited Merits Review (LMR). The NSW Council of Social Service, SA Council of Social Service, Consumer Action Law Centre and Consumer Policy Research Centre supported PIAC’s submission. LMR is the process by which regulated network businesses were able to challenge the decisions of the AER in the Australian Competition Tribunal, usually increasing their maximum allowed revenue as a result.
PIAC supported the abolition of LMR, but raised concerns about the ability of consumers to participate in the review process without additional reforms. PIAC submitted that:
- The regulatory system must provide for consumer involvement in all stages of the process, including administrative review processes, in order to ensure a focus on consumer outcomes;
- Further committed funding is necessary to enable effective consumer participation at all stages of the regulatory process, including any arrangements for appeal;
- Further changes are required so that the abolition of LMR does not have the unintended consequence of limiting opportunities for consumer participation in administrative reviews of the AER’s decisions; and
- The Committee should recommend further legislative reforms to give consumer organisations a statutory right of standing in judicial review proceedings, and protection from adverse cost orders. PIAC also appeared as a witness at the Inquiry’s public hearing in Melbourne. The transcript is available here.