The Competition and Consumer (Industry Codes–Food and Grocery) Regulation 2015 (the Code) was introduced to improve transparency and certainty in the commercial dealings between retailers, wholesalers and suppliers, and provide an effective process for parties to resolve their disputes.
The Code was reviewed by Professor Graeme Samuel AC in 2018, resulting in amendments in October 2020 to improve the operation of certain provisions in the Code, particularly in relation to the dispute resolution procedures.
The regulations require that the government initiate two separate reviews of the Code, the first review considered the operation of the dispute resolution provisions (Part 5 of the Code) and the second review will consider the operation of the remaining provisions.
The Treasury delivered the final report in September 2023. In January 2024 the government released the report and its response to the review.
The second review commenced in October 2023. This review will not revisit the dispute resolution provisions contained in Part 5 of the Code.
The Code is scheduled to sunset (be automatically repealed) on 1 April 2025. Prior to sunsetting, a review of the Code is also required to determine whether the Code remains fit for purpose.
In accordance with these requirements, the Hon Dr Craig Emerson MP has been appointed to undertake this review of the Code, supported by a secretariat within Treasury.
The review will:
- assess the effectiveness of the Code provisions (other than Part 5 of the Code) in achieving the purpose of the Code to improve the commercial relationship between retailers, wholesalers and suppliers in the grocery sector, and
- consider the need for the Code, including whether it should be remade, amended or repealed.
In evaluating the purpose and features of the Code, the review will have particular regard to:
- the impact of the Code in improving commercial relations between grocery retailers, wholesalers and suppliers,
- whether the Code’s provisions should be extended to other retailers or wholesalers operating in the food and grocery sector,
- whether the Code should be made mandatory, and
- whether the Code should include civil penalty provisions.
Review process and timing
A report of the review is to be prepared by 30 June 2024 for consideration by the Assistant Minister for Competition, Charities and the Treasury. The report will include findings and any recommendations based on the evidence received during the review process, in response to the terms of reference.
The review will include the release of a consultation paper to seek public submissions and consultations with key stakeholders (including the Code’s signatories, industry body representatives, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and other agencies).