Feedback sought on supermarket pandemic co-operation

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ACCC allowed temporary ‘coordinated activities’ during panic-buy peak

Supermarkets entered into a distribution co-operation in March

Australia’s consumer watchdog is seeking supply chain feedback on the interim authorisation allowing supermarkets to coordinate with each other when working with manufacturers, suppliers, and transport and logistics providers during the Covid-19 crisis, the National Road Transport Association (NatRoad) reports.

Coles Group, on behalf of itself and all the other major supermarkets, put in an authorisation with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to engage in a number of coordinated activities with a view to "ensuring the fair and equitable supply and distribution of retail products to Australian consumers during the COVID-19 pandemic".

"The authorisation enables the participating supermarkets to discuss, enter into or give effect to any arrangement between them (including with manufacturers, suppliers, and transport and logistics providers), or engage in any conduct, which has the purpose of alleviating the issues experienced in the supply chain during the outbreak," NatRoad explains.

"Interim measures were in place to put to make these agreements from March. 

"These issues are mostly related to the hoarding of certain products by consumers that has put strain on the supply chain.

"The ACCC would like members to share their experience or insights on these interim measures as a means to assess the consequences of putting in place a continuing agreement for six months."

ACCC authorisation provides statutory protection from court action for conduct that might otherwise raise concerns under the Competition and Consumer Act when it is satisfied the public benefit from the conduct outweighs any public detriment.

In this case, the authorisation allows a range of ‘coordinated activities’ but not agreements on retail prices for products.

 "Specifically the ACCC would like to know how these changes have impacted on your arrangements with the supermarkets and any benefits or detriments," Natroad advises

"They would also like input on operating conditions for the future."

ACCC seeks comments by Friday May 1, 2020.

NatRoad notes members can share opinions directly or via the association.


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