Melbourne Uni to hold symposium on Supermarket Code of Conduct

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 31st July 2013

Debate over whether there is a need for a code of conduct to regulate dealings between grocery retailers and suppliers will be the focus of a public symposium to be held at the University of Melbourne on Thursday 1 August 2013.

The symposium, ‘Supermarket Power in Australia’, will bring together academics, consumer experts, politicians and representatives from Australian supermarket chains and suppliers to discuss the power supermarkets have in Australia society.

The symposium will be led by Professor Caron Beaton-Wells of the Competition Law and Economics Network at the Melbourne Law School and Professor Christine Parker of the Centre for Regulatory Studies at Monash University.

“To state the obvious, supermarkets play an important role in people’s daily lives, and have proven over recent years to play an increasingly controversial one,” said Professor Beaton-Wells. “They affect not just consumers and what products they put in their grocery baskets, but also the businesses that interact with them such as competitors and suppliers,” she said.

“While many consumers may feel satisfied with what they perceive as competition – lower prices for example – some argue that it is at the expense of some suppliers, particularly primary producers,” Professor Beaton-Wells said. “So while there may be short term gain for customers, the supermarkets have a degree of power that in the long run, may damage other suppliers as well as independent grocers, leading to higher prices and less choices,” she said.

Among those presenting at the symposium are Professor Graeme Samuel AC, former Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) Chairman, and, by video, Christine Tacon, the Groceries Code Adjudicator in the UK.

While there have been numerous enquiries over recent years, organisers of the symposium said none have “resulted in a conclusive view about whether or what reforms may be needed”.

“We aren’t interested in a preconceived view that the big supermarket chains are ‘bad’,” Professor Beaton-Wells said. “But what we want to do is inform the public better about the power such supermarkets wield, and have a balanced, inclusive debate about their role in Australian society,” she said.

More information about the symposium can be found here.

Melbourne Uni to hold Supermarket Power in Australia symposium