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Defining “acceptable business practice” for Australian retailers?

While the retailers’ apologies often sound a little bit like an apology for getting caught, there remains insufficient debate or clarity about what is and what is not “acceptable business practice” when it comes to the grocery retailers’ dealings with suppliers.

The ACCC does not have the resources to investigate every complaint they receive, nor do the manufacturers feel the ACCC has the power to protect them if they do complain. There is clearly a need to increase the transparency about what the current business practices are, define what is acceptable and outline the potential penalties when breaches do occur

The ACCC could set up a whistle blower service whereby they could encourage all manufacturers to report any behaviour on the part of the retailers that they felt was unacceptable business practice. In the first instance, it could be clarified that this was just information gathering, to understand what the current practices are.

Even without investigating whether the alleged behaviour did occur or not, the ACCC would be able to outline a clearer more specific code of conduct going forward.

For each of the alleged specific activities, the ACCC would be able to outline whether in the event it occurred in the future, whether it would be considered “acceptable business practice”.

If it was not considered acceptable then the ACCC could define the course of action that should be taken and the potential penalties and protection that could be applied.

This would be no means solve the problem, but it feels like it might be a practical step in the right direction and would at least provide greater transparency and debate about what the current business practices are and their “acceptability”.