In response to Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) allegations that it engaged in unconscionable conduct, Australian supermarket chain Coles admits threatening some of its suppliers with sanctions, but denies acting unconscionably. The case is due to return to the Federal Court on 1 August 2014.
The retailer’s response spans more than 30 pages and was filed in the Federal Court in Melbourne by lawyers for Coles, rejecting the key claims made by the ACCC that Coles acted unconscionably, using misleading information and applying undue influence to force suppliers to participate in the Active Retail Collaboration (ARC) programme.
Coles’ defence of its conduct includes certain admissions, including using formalised scripts to sell the benefits of participating in the new supply chain programme and escalating recalcitrant suppliers up the Coles management chain when they resisted.
According to recent media reports, Coles admitted telling confectionery supplier Stuart Alexander it would be “unable to discuss future new product development” or “do anything new” and told macadamia nut supplier Paton’s it would not have access to a valued supplier portal, unless they supported the ARC programme. Coles’ defence states that supplier participation in the ARC programme was at all times voluntary and that it consulted with smaller suppliers about the value of expected benefits from the programme.