The chair of the competition regulator has dismissed allegations that Woolworths had unfairly pressured fresh produce suppliers over the request by Woolworths for financial contributions to its Jamie Oliver Collectibles Campaign, which industry group Ausveg claimed in June.

“We contacted the 200 suppliers approached by Woolworths to fund its campaign to enquire about the nature and content of their communications with Woolworths,” the ACCC said.

“In the course of the investigation, the ACCC has not received any evidence that suppliers were unfairly pressured.”

The ACCC is able to reconsider if other supplier experiences come to light, but the initial allegations have not been supported by our enquiries to date, it added.

ACCC chairman Rod Sims was addressing the Australian Farm Institute Conference in Melbourne last week and explained how Australian agriculture can benefit from better competition policy.

Talking about competition laws, Mr Sims said that unconscionable conduct can be commercially and economically damaging and can create risks and uncertainty for businesses.

For example, farmers may be unwilling to invest in new farming equipment to expand production if they are concerned the buyer of that product could unilaterally change the terms of their contract after the fact.

Businesses may seek substantial guarantees before entering a contract or commercial arrangement with another party, or limit their commercial dealings to other businesses they know.
If left unchecked, therefore, unconscionable conduct can adversely affect the functioning of markets.

A common concern raised with the ACCC by small business is that of unilateral changes to contracts by a larger business.

The ACCC is currently undertaking ten in-depth unconscionable conduct investigations and has six current proceedings in the Federal Court in which unconscionable conduct is alleged.

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