COVID-19: Groceries, Coronavirus, Public Policy Exclusions and the Competition Act 1998

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COVID-19: Groceries, Coronavirus, Public Policy Exclusions and the Competition Act 1998

Published 1 April 2020

Who does it apply to?

Retailers or suppliers of groceries and logistics suppliers transporting groceries – supermarkets, producers and transport companies.

When does it commence?

Unusually it is retrospective and can apply to any agreement made after 1st March 2020.

What does it do?

The Competition Act 1998 ( specifically Chapter 1 / section 2 ) makes it illegal to collaborate with competitors who carry out the same services; in certain circumstances it can be a criminal offence. This order relaxes the rules and allows competitors to work together if they comply with the “qualifying activities” as set out in the terms of the Order.

What are qualifying activities?

For Retailers or suppliers:
  • Co-ordination on limiting consumer purchases of particular groceries
  • Sharing of labour or facilities or the deployment of labour from other industries
  • Co-ordination in relation to the simplification of supply chains or product specifications
  • Sharing information on the day-to-day stock position and shortages
  • Sharing information on the services provided by logistics suppliers
  • Co-ordination for certain groups of consumer such as critical workers , the vulnerable , socially isolated
  • Co-ordination of opening hours or temporary closures
  • Collaboration on supplying areas particularly vulnerable to shortages
For logistics suppliers
  • Sharing information on labour availability
  • Sharing labour / facilities / information on deployment
  • Sharing information on storage capacity – including ambient , chilled and frozen warehousing
  • Sharing information on warehouse services
  • Sharing information on delivery vehicle capacity ( size , type and destination )
How to take advantage of it?

To be able to take advantage of the Order any parties to an agreement must notify the agreement to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA ) within 14 days of making the agreement. The details will then be published on a register. To notify the parties must inform the CMA of

  • The names of the parties
  • Description of the nature of the agreement
  • Date
  • Groceries to which it relates
Overarching criteria
  • The agreement CANNOT contain information about pricing or costs
  • The agreement must be to help with the Covid 19 crisis and cannot prevent , restrict or distort competition

Authors

Neil Warwick

Neil Warwick

Newcastle

+44 (0) 191 404 4178

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