A report calls for existing trading hour limits to be abandoned.
A report calls for existing trading hour limits to be abandoned. Claudia Baxter

Report calls for deregulated retail trading hours

RETAIL stores could open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, if a plan to fully deregulate trading hours around the country is taken on.

The proposal was one of many contained in a draft report from the Abbott government's review of competition law, released on Monday.

Economist Professor Ian Harper's report calls for the existing trading hour limits, regulated by state governments, to be abandoned.

His draft report to Small Business Minister Bruce Billson has argued that Australia's growing use of online retailers was undermining traditional "bricks and mortar" retailers.

"This provides strong grounds for abandoning remaining limits on retail trading hours," the report reads."To the extent that jurisdictions choose to retain restrictions, these should be strictly limited to Christmas Day, Good Friday and the morning of Anzac Day."

While the report, which covers all national and state competition laws, is directed to the Federal Government, the states would have to enact any future changes to trading hours.

The review's call for trading hours to be opened up was backed by the Australian National Retailers Association, which has been pushing for such reforms.

ANRA acting chief executive Rob Hadler said the trading-hour reform proposals were "positive" and if adopted "will drive lower prices and more choice for consumers".

However, Mr Hadler said retail employers were still worried about other changes proposed, including an "effects test" on potential harm to competition.

That test has been proposed to prevent dominant companies in the retail market using their market power to cause "anti-competitive harm".

But ANRA and others have previously voiced concerns such a test, which would expand competition law, could affect normal competition in the retail market.

While the review panel recognised that most states had already largely deregulated trading hours, it noted Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia were lagging behind, the draft report said that the removal of trading-hour restrictions by state governments had "widened choices for consumers".

"Yet consumers have continued to demand greater diversity in how and when they shop, as is evident in the rapid take-up of online shopping," the report reads.

Mr Billson said the review was the first examination of competition law and policy in 20 years and the draft recommendations would be "thoroughly tested via further public consultations" before final proposals were put to the government.

The draft report, which also covers wider issues in competition, consumer and market regulation, is out for public comment until November 17, before a final report is due in March next year.