By Marcela Araneda
Retailers can now collectively bargain with landlords about rent relief during the COVID-19 pandemic after the ACCC granted interim authorisation to the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) and its current and future members.
The move also allows retailers to share information relevant to the negotiations including in relation to requests by landlords for certain information as part of considering and negotiating support to be provided in the context of COVID-19.
“We see a clear public benefit in allowing retailers to work together in the negotiations with landlords as it will help those tenants who are experiencing financial hardship during this pandemic to reach a fair outcome,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said.
“We need to maintain strong competition in the retail sector and supporting these businesses will help with economic recovery once the pandemic subsides.”
The authorisation is voluntary and temporary and does not include individual tenants exchanging information about the amount of their rent or any rent incentives they were previously granted.
It is planned that the proposed cooperation will have regard to the proposed mandatory Code of Conduct which sets out the good faith leasing principles applicable between landlords and small and medium shopping centre tenants.
“As with all of the temporary arrangements that industries are looking to implement as a means to deal with the COVID-19 issues they are facing, we will keep under consideration when they are no longer necessary,” Mr Sims said.
Having granted interim authorisation for the arrangements, the ACCC will now seek feedback on the application for final authorisation which is sought for a period of 12 months from the date of authorisation.