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Real Business : Issue 3 2008
AHEAD OF THE CURVE Giving and receiving Volunteering is the classic win/win scenario T he usual formula for professional life is that you study hard, earn accreditation and then, based on your qualifications, attitude and experience, are hired and paid. Yet there is an alternative system available to everyone. You still contribute your time and professional expertise – and receive something in return – only it isn’t money. By volunteering your time to a worthy cause you participate in a classic win/win scenario. The company or organisation for which you volunteer benefits because they can have a task that needs to be done performed by a competent pro. What do you get out of it? Not just the knowledge that you’ve helped out a very worthy cause – and the warm, fuzzy feeling that accompanies this – but also a genuine achievement you can list on your CV. There are all sorts of ways you can volunteer in the community. The classic scenario is to sign up with an organisation such as Volunteering Australia, in which case you might be tasked with assisting the disadvantaged, people with disabilities, or the elderly in their day-to-day tasks. Thick as thieves T 10 he secretive world of cartels has recently been pulled out of shady back rooms and splashed all over the front pages of newspapers as Australian cardboard manufacturer VISY was fined $36 million after admitting to entering into a price- fixing agreement with its rival Amcor. Cartel activity, also called collusion, is an arrangement between competitors to restrict competition by fixing or controlling prices, sharing customers or rigging tenders, or setting production or sales quotas. Signs of cartel conduct include unexplained price increases, reluctance to compete on price or increase output, and regular parallel price increases. Collusion can occur in almost any industry. Some recent high- profile cases include: • US courts recently awarded penalties of US$1.2 billion against a number of airlines, including British Airways, Korean Air, Qantas and JAL, for participation in a cartel that increased air cargo rates to and from the US. It is alleged more than 30 airlines were involved in the price-fixing agreement. • In July, Japan’s Fair Trade Commission raided the offices of four companies on suspicion they conspired to increase the price of polyethylene sheets used in insulation materials. • Germany’s antitrust watchdog recently announced it would fine a number of cosmetics and perfume companies, including the German subsidiaries of Chanel, Estée Lauder and L’Oréal, for price-fixing. It is alleged they shared information on sales figures, advertising expenditures, planned product launches, prices and product returns. Collusion is largely illegal in Australia, the US, Canada and most of the European Union due to competition or antitrust laws. But it is difficult to know the scale of the problem and just how many cartels exist because of the inherent secrecy. In a bid to combat cartel activity and get a better deal for consumers, competition and consumer organisations around the world have acted proactively, offering immunity to whistleblowers who report cases of collusion. ¦ REAL BUSINESS ISSUE 3, 2008
Issue 1 2009