Senator Matthew Canavan.
Senator Matthew Canavan. Sharyn O'Neill

Senator calls for supermarket duopoly crackdown

ROCKHAMPTON-based Senator Matt Canavan has called on the government to crack down on companies who abuse their market power following claims Coles engaged in unconscionable conduct.

Earlier this week, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission initiated proceedings in the Federal Court of Australia against the supermarket giant.

It is alleged Coles took advantage of its superior bargaining position by demanding money from suppliers to cover "profit gaps" and "waste and markdowns" when it was not entitled to do so.

Mr Canavan said these claims paint a picture of a contemptible culture, raising issues about the efficacy of existing regulations and penalties.

"The ACCC has effectively accused Coles of intimidation, threats and what amounts to a corporate version of blackmail," he said.

"It reads more like a Mario Puzo novel than a Rod Sims dissertation.

"If Coles can't defend these allegations, then our current laws are not working. There should be no place in our competitive economy for big firms to stand over small firms."

Mr Canavan said in light of these allegations, the Government should look again at the merits of a mandatory code of conduct, rather than the currently proposed voluntary code.

He said it should also consider the need for stronger penalties, like divestiture powers that exist in other countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada.

"If Coles really have acted in the way that is claimed, being split up is almost a fate too good," he said.

The matter is listed for a directions hearing in Melbourne on Friday, October 24.

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