ACCC raises concerns over caravanning association’s proposed trade show ‘loyalty program’

Huntley Mitchell

Huntley Mitchell

Australia’s competition watchdog has raised concerns over a state caravanning association’s plan to offer a ‘loyalty program’ to its members for trade shows.

Under the proposed program, the Caravan Trade & Industries Association of Queensland (aka Caravanning Queensland) would offer discounted fees to exhibit at its own caravanning trade shows on the condition that members do not take part in competing events, according to the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC).

In a draft notice issued on Wednesday, the ACCC has proposed to revoke Caravanning Queensland’s exclusive dealing notification about the program, arguing it would substantially lessen competition in the supply of caravanning exhibition event services in the South East Queensland region.

“We disagree with Caravanning Queensland’s claim that this is simply a loyalty program for its members,” ACCC commissioner Stephen Ridgeway said.

“Loyalty programs should reward members for purchasing more of your products or services, rather than linking the reward to an agreement not to purchase your competitors’ products or services.”

The ACCC is also arguing that the likely benefit of the proposed program will not outweigh the likely detriment to the public from the conduct.

The watchdog noted that Caravanning Queensland has a substantial membership base comprising more than 85 per cent of caravan manufacturers.

It is also the organiser of major caravanning exhibition events in Brisbane and the surrounding region, including the Brisbane Supershow event for caravanning retailers.

“As a result, smaller caravanning event organisers or possible new entrants are unlikely to be able to match the deep discounts to persuade members to give up their Caravanning Queensland discount,” Ridgeway said.

“Additionally, consumers are likely to have fewer opportunities, or have to travel much further, to attend caravanning exhibition events where they can easily compare features and prices of a broad range of recreational vehicles, and track down special deals.”

Jason Plant, CEO of the Caravan Trade & Industries Association of Queensland (CTIAQ), said the organisation was “disappointed” with the ACCC’s stance.

“The CTIAQ is considering its options in relation to the findings and notes that the commission has not yet made a final decision,” he told Travel Weekly.

“In the meantime, the CTIAQ will continue to deliver our regular suite of services to our members, supporting them through this challenging period we are all experiencing.

“We look forward to delivering our highly regarded caravan and recreational vehicle events as soon as restrictions are eased, under the same successful formula that we have been operating under for many years.”

Caravanning Queensland and interested parties have the opportunity to comment on the draft notice before the ACCC makes a final decision. Submissions are due by 10 July 2020.

Featured image source: Caravanning Queensland