Supermarket giants are coordinating immediately to ensure consumers have reliable and fair access to groceries during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) granted interim authorisation that will allow supermarkets to coordinate with each other when working with manufacturers, suppliers, and transport and logistics providers.
The purpose of this is to ensure the supply and the fair and equitable distribution of fresh food, groceries, and other household items to Australian consumers, including those who are vulnerable or live in rural and remote areas.
This authorisation applies to Coles, Woolworths, Aldi and Metcash. It will also apply to any other grocery retailer wishing to participate. Grocery retailers, suppliers, manufacturers and transport groups can choose to opt out of any arrangements.
Rod Sims, ACCC chair said Australia’s supermarkets have experienced unprecedented demand for groceries in recent weeks, both in store and online, which has led to shortages of some products and disruption to delivery services.
“This is essentially due to unnecessary panic buying, and the logistics challenge this presents, rather than an underlying supply problem,” he said.
“We recognise and appreciate that individual supermarket chains have already taken a number of important steps to mitigate the many issues caused by panic buying,”
“We believe allowing these businesses to work together to discuss further solutions is appropriate and necessary at this time.”
The ACCC granted interim authorisation on Monday afternoon after receiving the application last Friday.
The authorisation allows a range of coordinated activities but does not allow supermarkets to agree on retail prices for products.
Rod said the ACCC have worked “very swiftly” to consider this interim authorisation application, because of the urgency of the situation, and its impact on Australian consumers.
Coles is dedicating two Community Hour shopping periods per week to emergency services and healthcare workers, who are essential to protecting the community during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Coles is also spending an additional $1 million per week to extensively clean its stores and is in the early stages of rolling out our new Coles Online Priority Service and is looking to bring this service to as many vulnerable customers as possible.
On Tuesday 24 March, Woolworths has has announced its committed to the installation of protective plexiglass screens at the manned checkouts of each store across Australia in the coming weeks.
“Our stores remain open and we will continue to stand by the Australian community through this health crisis,” Claire Peters, Woolworths supermarkets managing director said on Tuesday.
The Department of Home Affairs has convened a Supermarket Taskforce, which meets regularly to resolve issues impacting supermarkets.
Representatives from government departments, supermarkets, the grocery supply chain and the ACCC are on the Taskforce.
The interim authorisation applies to agreements made as a result of Taskforce recommendations.
The ACCC will now seek feedback on the application. Details on how to make a submission are available on the ACCC’s public register along with a Statement of Reasons.