Community concern

THE Community Newspaper Group’s tactic of offering extremely low advertising rates to customers of independent suburban newspapers could become the subject of an Australian Competition and Consumer Commission investigation.

None of the independent newspaper owners who spoke to WA Business News would say whether information had been forwarded to the ACCC. However, they all agreed Community’s low pricing policies were a concern.

Both Post Newspapers owner Bret Christian and Examiner Newspapers proprietor Gerald Van Rongen refused to comment.

ACCC regional director Sam Di-Scerni said he could neither confirm nor deny rumours that the commission was investigating predatory pricing allegations against Community.

“We maintain confidentiality while an investigation is ongoing,” Mr Di-Scerni said.

Herald Publishing Company publisher Andrew Smith also refused to comment on any ACCC investigation but said he had been compiling a list of examples where his papers’ clients had been offered “ridiculously” low prices.

“Some of the prices offered to our clients have been 30 per cent below what we considered to be economic,” he said.

“A few years ago the independent newspaper owners took action with the ACCC but they refused to take up our case. They told us that under their act they can only take action if it is clear Community was trying to put its competitors out of business.”

Community Newspaper Group CEO Ian Thompson branded claims that Community was trying to put inde-pendent newspapers out of business as rubbish.

“I can give examples of independents that are doing deals even sharper than we are,” he said.

“Our product has a value and a worth that I’m not interested in discounting. I’m also not interested in putting any competitors out of business, but I’m happy to fight for bigger market share.”

p See Media, page 22

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