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Paper info: The Long Arm of the Law – or how the Consumer Regulator is Reaching into B2B Relationships: a Case Study of Two Australian Supermarkets and their Suppliers

Title


The Long Arm of the Law – or how the Consumer Regulator is Reaching into B2B Relationships: a Case Study of Two Australian Supermarkets and their Suppliers

Authors


Susan Carter, Patty Kamvounias and
Catherine Sutton-Brady
University of Sydney
Australia
Catherine Sutton-Brady

Place of Publication


The paper was published at the 32nd IMP-conference in Cape Town in 2016.

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Abstract


In May 2014 the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (‘the ACCC’) commenced legal proceedings against Coles, one of Australia’s largest supermarket chains. Unlike previous legal actions which had focussed on Coles’ interactions with consumers, this legal action sought to regulate Coles’ interactions with their small business suppliers. In December 2015, the ACCC commenced a similar action against Woolworths (Coles’ largest competitor). In both of these legal actions, the ACCC argue that each supermarket chain has acted ‘unconscionably’ in their dealings with commercial suppliers. These legal actions are important because they focus on a manner of conducting business or a pattern of behaviour rather than any loss suffered by a vulnerable trader; regulate the way in which a larger business behaves and seeks to utilise the advantages which come with a strong market position and demonstrate the regulator can successfully bring an action (with significant penalties) to moderate business behaviour and B2B relationships. Using the case studies of Coles and Woolworths we will seek to explore the type of behaviour which attracts the attention of the regulator and assess the impact of these legal developments on B2B relationships