By a staff reporter
Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) chairman Rod Sims has weighed into the supermarket wars, saying as far as he is concerned the watchdog’s role is merely to protect the competitive process.
Speaking at the Australian Food and Grocery Council’s industry forum in Canberra, Mr Sims said it was incorrect to label all those who question aspects of the degree of market power of the major supermarket chains as people wanting to protect inefficient businesses.
“We see the supermarket issues capable of being dealt with under the Competition and Consumer Act, and we do not see use of the Act as excessive regulation,” he said.
“Indeed, effective implementation of the Act is vital for the success of our market economy.
“It provides clear and wide boundaries within which we can all benefit from the power of the profit motive.”
Mr Sims added it was incorrect to argue that a market economy needs no regulation.
“It requires a modest amount of appropriate regulation to be effective, and this is what the Act provides,” he said.
Speaking of the ACCC’s enforcement role, Mr Sims said the watchdog must always act on the basis of facts and evidence in taking court action.
“Our enforcement role, therefore, is not to be a decision maker,” he said.
“This is for the courts which are, of course, the ultimate umpire, as they should be.”
Mr Sims welcomed the “root and branch” review of Australia’s competition laws as an important opportunity to ensure the laws are appropriate and serve to enhance the welfare of Australians.
His comments come as the federal government prepares to outline its concerns about the price war between supermarket giants Woolworths Ltd and Wesfarmers Ltd-owned Coles and its impact on the Australian food growing industry.