Will this put an end supermarket bullying? 71



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Coles has paid around $10 million to suppliers to make up for “illegal and unconscionable conduct”. The supermarket chain was fined by the Federal Court late last year and ordered to provide redress for some 200 suppliers.

Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett, who has been critical of Coles in the past for misleading customers on the freshness of its bread, acted as arbiter in the settlement, visiting the farmers and food processors and determining whether they deserved a refund.

In 2013 the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) investigated Coles for allegations of bullying suppliers, and in December last year Justice Michelle Gordon found Coles management had engaged in “serious, deliberate and repeated” misconduct in a way that wasy deliberate, orchestrated and relentless.

Coles forced suppliers to fund advertising campaigns and promotions by threatening to remove suppliers’ product from the shelves if they didn’t cough up. In her findings, Justice Gordon said, “Coles misused its bargaining power… Coles demanded payments from suppliers to which it was not entitled by threatening harm to the suppliers that did not comply with the demand. Coles withheld money from suppliers it had no right to withhold”.

She acknowledged that had Coles had admitted to its wrongdoings; had it not, the penalties would have been much higher.

Mr Kennett yesterday told the ABC he was confident Coles had improved its dealings with suppliers following the court action. “I believe a great deal of good will come out if it for the suppliers for Coles,” he said.

“It takes a long time to turn a ship around but I’m hopeful, by the end of this year, Coles will have in place a much better practice”.

Christine Parker, Professor of Regulatory Studies and Legal Ethics at Monash University however believes the court action is “nothing but a skirmish on the edge of supermarket power”. She says it is a symptom of the narrow, greedy and profit-oriented way Australians supermarket duopoly behaves.

“These tactics may be unattractive, even uncivilised. But they are exactly what we should expect when two retailers hold 870 per cent of the grocery market,” Prof Parker writes in The Conversation.

What do you think? Can a leopard change its spots? Is the $10 million fine plus the same again in refunds sufficient punishment, or is it just a slap on the wrist for Coles? 

Starts at 60 Writers

The Starts at 60 writers team seek out interesting topics and write them especially for you.

  1. no, it will not stop the abuse, it will not stop the price gouging, it will not stop anything COLES or WOOLWORTHS do, actually it will make them greedier, afterall they have to recope the 10 million$

  2. Glad they were ousted and discredited. Hope it gives suppliers some confidence to act if in future they receive similar treatment.

  3. No, bullied small milk bars, green grocers, grocers etc out of business all these years. Water on a ducks back !!

  4. They will just pass the cost onto consumers and do it again $10 million is a drop in the bucket for these big companies

  5. After watching Four Corners the other night, I want to know what Coles, Woolworths and Aldi will do about the slave labour situation? If they want to bully, for want of a better word, perhaps they need to crack down on what contractors these companies use. I was appalled that this is happening here.

  6. Jeff Kennet has not been Premier for many years ,he is a former Premier, as in the original article. Small changes make for bigger ones in the media and the end story is very different to the beginning – Chinese whispers. Please get ALL the facts right in your blogs Starts at 60, it saves so much rumour and speculation .

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