Inside the ACCC and Coles legal battle: Which businesses were asked to pay supplier rebates?

As supermarket giant Coles and the competition watchdog prepare to go head-to-head in court over claims the retailer forced suppliers to pay sales rebates, further details have emerged about the companies affected by the case.

Fairfax reports well-known brands Carman’s Fine Foods, Maggie Beer Products, Nudie Foods, Bic, Mattel, Weis Frozen Foods and Yakult are among the more than 200 suppliers to which Coles is alleged to have acted unconscionably.

Other brands include collapsed cake manufacturer Big Sister Foods, McCormick Foods, Aussie Bodies, Nature’s Gift, Bayer Australia, Nerada Tea, Swisse Wellness and Sandhurst Fine Foods.

According to Fairfax, which has seen documents relating to the ACCC’s court case against Coles, the supermarket also asked for $200,000 from Red Bull as part of its Active Retail Collaboration program, developed in 2011 in a bid to obtain better trading terms from its suppliers.

Red Bull refused to hand over cash to Coles, as did food giant Nestle. However, Proctor & Gamble agreed to pay Coles 0.45% of the price Coles paid P&G for its grocery products on an ongoing basis.

Fairfax reports the smaller suppliers were asked to pay a 1% rebate of the price Coles paid for their grocery products, and faced “escalation” if they refused to pay.

As reported by SmartCompany yesterday, the ACCC is alleging Coles breached Australian Consumer Law by providing misleading information to suppliers about the savings and value of the Active Retail Collaboration program; using undue influence and unfair tactics against suppliers to obtain the rebates, and in some cases threatening commercial consequences when rebates were not paid; taking advantage of its superior bargaining position; and requiring the smaller suppliers to agree to rebates without sufficient time to assess the value of the deal.

SmartCompany contacted Carman’s Fine Foods and Maggie Beer Products, but both companies declined to comment. SmartCompany also contacted Nudie Foods but did not receive a response before deadline.


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