Rural Press and Waikerie Printing House verdict upheld

It also found that Rural Press senior executives Ian Law and Trevor McAuliffe, as well as Paul Taylor, Waikerie Printing House director, were knowingly concerned in Trade Practices Act breaches by their respective companies. At the time, Law was Rural Press regional publishing division general manager, and McAuliffe was the South Australian regional manager. Since then, Law has moved on to his current position as WA Newspaper Holdings managing director.

Rural Press, Law and McAuliffe had appealed against findings made by a Federal Court judge in March 2001 regarding Trade Practices Act provisions which bar exclusionary arrangements that substantially lessened competition.

The finding means that the original fines imposed by a lower court, of $600,000 for Rural Press and Bridge Printing, and $70,000 each for the two executives, will remain imposed.

However, the High Court rejected claims by the ACCC that Rural Press had abused its market power.

The situation arose in July 1997 when Waikerie Printing House expanded the coverage of its River News newspaper from the town of Waikerie to include the nearby town of Mannum. This put River News in direct competition with the Murray Valley Standard, which was published by a Rural Press subsidiary.

Rural Press responded with the threat that it would start a new paper in competition with the River News in Waikeirie if the printing house did not withdraw. Waikeirie Printing House then reverted its distribution to a line 40km north of Mannum. This action, on behalf of both parties, was deemed illegal by the High Court.

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