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Public Seminar - Unfair trade practices & supermarket power in EU and Austr...

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X803, NeW Space

University of Newcastle City Campus

409 Hunter Street

Newcastle, NSW 2300

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Public Seminar - Unfair trading practices and supermarket power: comparing regulatory challenges in the EU and Australia

30 October | 5 - 6.30pm | X803, NeW Space

Newcastle Law School and Newcastle Business School invite you to attend this free public seminar on Unfair trading practices and supermarket power: comparing regulatory challenges in the EU and Australia by Dr Victoria Daskalova, an Assistant Professor in Law, Governance & Technology at the University of Twente in the Netherlands

Developments in technology, business models and consumer preferences have led to a shift in the balance of power – from producers to retailers – in the food supply chain over the past half a century. This trend is especially pronounced in Europe, but also in Australia, where the two major chains – Coles and Woolworths – reportedly hold a ‘duopoly’. But great power is not always used responsibly and supermarket chains do use their buyer power to pressure producers for ever lower prices and to transfer various commercial risks. This presentation will address the issue of unfair trading practices in the grocery chain from a comparative perspective. Is the problem competition law? Is there need for special regulation? Special enforcement mechanisms?

RSVP by Thursday 26 October


About the speaker

Dr. Victoria Daskalova (BA, Duke University; LLM, MPhil, PhD, Tilburg University) is an Assistant Professor in Law, Governance & Technology at the University of Twente in the Netherlands. She is an extramural fellow at the Tilburg Law and Economics Center (TILEC) and a member of the Netherlands Institute for Law and Governance (NILG). In the past years, Victoria’s work has focused on competition issues in the food supply chain, including private labels, unfair contract terms and the exercise of buyer power. Currently, Victoria’s work seeks to examine questions related to sustainability, innovation and fairness in the application of competition law to new business models in the sharing economy, energy and health markets. Victoria is currently a Visiting Researcher at Melbourne Law School (August-November), where she is involved in the law school’s Supermarket Power Project. Her PhD dissertation on the application of the EU competition rules to buyer power is forthcoming in 2018 in the Edward Elgar Series on New Horizons in Law and Economics.


Presentation abstract

Developments in technology, business models and consumer preferences have led to a shift in the balance of power – from producers to retailers – in the food supply chain over the past half a century. This trend is especially pronounced in Europe, but also in Australia, where the two major chains – Coles and Woolworths – reportedly hold a ‘duopoly’. But great power is not always used responsibly and, as multiple reports and investigations by regulators in Europe and Australia show, supermarket chains do use their buyer power to pressure producers for ever lower prices and to transfer various commercial risks. Evidence of aggressive bargaining, bullying behaviour and dubious commercial practices such as unfair use of proprietary information and unilateral changes to contract terms has put the regulation of supermarket-supplier relations on the agenda of politicians and regulators.

The paradox is that despite seeming consensus about the existence of ‘a problem’ with unfair trading in the food supply chain, there is little practical agreement as to how this problem is best addressed and which laws or regulatory tools are best suited to address the concerns. Is the problem competition law? Is there need for special regulation? Special enforcement mechanisms? The diversity of approaches is telling: in Europe, no consensus on the matter exists. Attempts to establish a voluntary ‘Code of Good Practice’ and dispute resolution scheme at the EU level have faltered, and currently, all but five out of twenty-eight Member States have introduced some form of legislation in attempts to address unfair trading practices in the food supply chain.

In Australia, similar concerns have been voiced by producers against the main supermarket chains. Similarly, no ‘silver bullet’ has been found. The ACCC intervened against the two ‘duopolists’ for unconscionable conduct, settling with Coles in 2014 but losing the case against Woolworths in 2016. A voluntary code of conduct proposed by the supermarket chains came into force in 2015 and covers the conduct of Coles, Woolworths and Aldi.

This presentation will address the issue of unfair trading practices in the grocery chain from a comparative perspective. Firstly, the presentation will explain the nature of unfair trading practices in the food supply chain and explore the legal and economic basis for concern. Then, it will discuss the developments in the EU and its Member States and canvass the diversity of approaches (stricter competition rules, self-regulation, and sector-specific regulation) adopted over the last twenty years in response to the problem. Finally, it will contrast these approaches with the regulatory solution chosen in Australia and provoke reflection on the role of competition law and ‘other remedies’ in achieving fair and efficient outcomes for all market players – consumers, distributors and suppliers.

The presentation builds on the speaker’s doctoral work on buyer power and antitrust (forthcoming as a monograph in Edward Elgar’s New Horizons in Law and Economics Series) as well as on current research collaboration with Melbourne Law School’s Supermarket Power Project.

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X803, NeW Space

University of Newcastle City Campus

409 Hunter Street

Newcastle, NSW 2300

Australia

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