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Supermarkets are now allowed to coordinate with each other on food supplies during the coronavirus crisis

Sharon Masige
  • The ACCC is letting supermarkets coordinate with each other when working with suppliers and manufacturers to ensure groceries are evenly distributed around Australia.
  • It comes under a special interim authorisation for supermarkets including Woolworths, Coles, Aldi and IGA's parent company Metcash.
  • The authorisation, however, doesn't allow the supermarkets to agree on prices.
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The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is allowing supermarkets to coordinate with each other when working with suppliers so there is a fair distribution of groceries around Australia.

The regulator issued an interim authorisation that lets supermarkets including Coles, Woolworths, Aldi and Metcash (which owns IGA, Mitre 10 and The Bottle-O) confer with each other when it comes to manufacturers, suppliers and transport and logistics providers. It was done to ensure groceries and other household items are fairly distributed across Australia, especially for those who are vulnerable or isolated.

The authorisation, however, doesn't allow supermarkets to agree on the prices of products.

The ACCC's move comes after the amount of panic buying brought on by coronavirus fears, which has seen supermarket shelves of many essential items.

“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,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said in a statement.

“This is essentially due to unnecessary panic buying, and the logistics challenge this presents, rather than an underlying supply problem.”

Woolworths, Coles and Aldi all placed purchase restrictions on items including toilet paper, rice and pasta in a bid to reduce panic buying. Coles also announced plans to employ 5000 additional workers to help restock shelves and serve customers.

While the regulator appreciates individual supermarket chains working to reduce the impact of panic buying, Sims said it believes allowing them to them work together is necessary at this time.

The interim authorisation also applies to any other grocery store that wants to participate and any company involved can opt-out of any arrangements made.