Australia’s consumer watchdog, the ACCC, has raised competition concerns in the RV rental space – following THL’s proposed acquisition of Apollo.
THL is a New Zealand headquartered global tourism company operating a range of tourism-related businesses in Australia, New Zealand, the U.S. and the UK. In Australia, its operations include RV rentals, sales and manufacturing.
You may have heard of THL’s Australian RV rental brands, which are Maui, Britz and Mighty Camper.
Apollo, meanwhile, is an Aussie-based tourism leisure company that’s listed on the ASX, with operations in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Germany, the UK and Ireland.
In Australia, its principal activities include the manufacturing, rental, sales and distribution of RVs. Super similar to that of THL. Apollo’s Australian rental brands are Star RV, Apollo, Cheapa Campa and Hippie Camper.
If you were asked to list all the RV rental brands in Australia, you’d be stuck to add any more to the list unprompted. That’s what the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is concerned about.
The proposal was put forward in December. It values Apollo at approximately $137 million.
In a statement Thursday, the ACCC said the acquisition of Apollo will remove THL’s closest and largest competitor for motorised RV rentals in Australia.
“Market feedback … indicates that other RV rental suppliers lack the scale to replace the competition lost by Apollo being acquired,” ACCC commissioner Stephen Ridgeway said.
“Furthermore, our inquiries have not identified that new entry or expansion by other RV suppliers is likely to provide a strong competitive constraint on a combined THL and Apollo.”
On new entrants to the space, such as Camplify, Camptoo and Outdoorsy, which are sort-of Airbnb for campers, the ACCC said it’s also examining the extent to which these platforms (known as peer-to-peer platforms) compete with traditional RV rental suppliers.
While they’re starting to become more popular, particularly given the ease in which you can rent an RV, the ACCC isn’t convinced these new tech-enabled entrants provide a strong constraint on traditional RV rental suppliers.
“As a result of market feedback so far, we are concerned that consumers may end up paying more to rent RVs, or receive lower quality and service, as a result of the proposed acquisition,” Ridgeway added.
A decision on the acquisition will be made by the ACCC on July 21, 2022. The ACCC is also looking into the staggering number of complaints made against caravan companies operating in Australia under a separate body of work. It’s also the first acquisition the ACCC is dealing with since it announced a focus on the space.