With the growth of the internet it was inevitable. Two internet companies, both based outside Australia, are likely to merge and this may substantially lessen competition in a market in Australia. And there is not much our Competition laws can do about it.
US based Amazon is looking to take over British-based The Book Depository. It is reported here. At a guess, these are the two largest internet book sellers in Australia. So the acquisition may potentially substantially lessen competition in a market in Australia (possibly a retail book market but there are lots of facts that would be needed to verify this).
The key point, however, is that, even though this situation is envisaged by our laws, and even though this type of merger is likely to become more common as internet trade grows, there is not much we can do about it. Indeed, the only remedy under s.50A of the Competition and Consumer Act is to stop Amazon/The Book Depository from trading in Australia. This doesn’t seem like a very useful remedy.
The key problem is that we have no leverage. Neither company actually carries out activities here. We can’t do a Schweppes-type solution (where brands had to be divested in Australia but not overseas) because there is nothing to divest.
So if the lawyers can think up any innovative solutions I will be grateful, because I suspect this national-level impotence will become increasingly common.