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ACCC wants supermarkets to continue working together

Woman in supermarket aisle with food shelf reading shopping list and holding basket. Woman buying groceries in store. Retail, sale and consumerism concept.

Australia’s consumer watchdog, ACCC, is proposing that the nation’s biggest supermarkets permission continue working together until March 2021 to ensure the continued supply of food and groceries during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In March, Coles, Woolworths, Aldi and Metcash were given ACCC approval to coordinate with each other when working with manufacturers, suppliers, and transport and logistics providers.

ACCC commissioner Stephen Ridgeway said a draft determination proposes allowing the deal to continue on broadly the same terms as before.

“The ACCC recognises the significant challenges businesses and the economy more broadly are facing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Ridgeway said.

“We know there has been unprecedented demand for groceries and other household products, and believe there are clear benefits in allowing this conduct to continue while the pandemic remains an issue.”

The retailers have worked together to overcome supply challenges due to stockpiling and have taken a united approach to things like sanitation measures, and on Sunday issued an updated statement on their position.

“As masks are optional, it’s not compulsory to wear one in our stores in these areas. However, if you are in any doubt, or would simply feel more comfortable, please do wear a mask when you come into store. This is the same guidance we have given to our teams, and we have provided them with masks to wear as an option,” the statement read.

The ACCC authorisation does not extend to the prices of any retail products, and retailers, suppliers, manufacturers and transport groups can choose to opt in or out of any arrangements.

Ridgeway said the recent outbreak in Melbourne has highlighted the benefit of working together.

“The authorisation facilitates supermarkets working together to ensure everyone, including vulnerable consumers or those from rural and remote areas, have fair and reliable access to fresh food, groceries and other household goods,” he said.

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