01.ACCC takes action
The ongoing saga of fuel shopper docket discounts continues. The latest round in the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's (ACCC) stoush with Coles and Woolworths supermarkets hasn't delivered the knockout blow the regulator had hoped it would, but has upheld the ACCC's claims that Woolworths had breached a court enforceable undertaking it had provided to the ACCC.
The Federal Court in Sydney has today found that Woolworths breached a court enforceable undertaking it had provided to the ACCC late last year with a “4 + 4 cents” fuel discount offer made until 9 March 2014 that was conditional on Woolworths supermarket purchases.
Later offers not a breach of enforceable undertaking
But while the court found in favour of the ACCC when it came to the "4 + 4 cents" offer, it dismissed the ACCC’s allegations against Coles and Woolworths that their more recent offers of bundled discounts breached their undertakings to the ACCC.
The dismissed allegations related to a new offer that Woolworths made from 10 March this year, which allowed consumers who purchased $5 worth of items from the supermarket's affiliate petrol stations to receive a 4c discount on their fuel. This discount could be used in conjunction with the 4c per litre discount on offer for qualifying Woolworths supermarket shoppers.
The ACCC also alleged that a Coles offer breached Coles’ undertaking to the ACCC. The offer gave consumers 14c off per litre of petrol at a Coles-affiliated station, but the court dismissed the ACCC’s proceedings because only 4c of the total bundled discount was contingent on a qualifying supermarket purchase.
ACCC chair Rod Sims said: “The ACCC is pleased that the judgment also makes it clear that bundling of supermarket fuel offers greater than 4 cents in a single acquisition of fuel will not be permitted”.
“We are disappointed however that the Court has found that Coles and Woolworths can bundle a supermarket fuel offer with a petrol station offer. We will carefully consider the judgment and its implications for competition in fuel markets and any detrimental price impact on fuel consumers. But it is significant that the undertakings continue to prevent Coles and Woolworths offering fuel discounts that are subsidised by their supermarket operations."