Thursday, May 30, 2024

Woolworths fined for detergent delinquency

The Federal Court has ordered Woolworths to pay penalties totalling $9 million following admissions the company made in proceedings brought by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

Woolworths admitted to being knowingly concerned in the making of, and giving effect to, an understanding between Colgate, Cussons and Unilever that they would each cease supplying standard concentrate laundry detergents to Woolworths in early 2009 and supply only ultra concentrates to Woolworths from that time.

“By imposing these penalties, the court has acknowledged that Woolworths was knowingly concerned in an anti-competitive understanding which they admitted was reached between laundry-detergent manufacturers,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said. “This is a timely reminder that businesses must ensure that their competition-law compliance programs educate their staff about the risks involved in communications or other conduct which facilitates an anti-competitive understanding between other businesses.”

Woolworths said in a statement it acknowledged that the behaviour of one of its buyers was not of the high standards of competition-law compliance required by the company, and that, in the seven years since the anti-competitive behaviour in question occurred, the company had upgraded its compliance program and training.

Consumer advocacy group Choice welcomed the court’s decision.

“This fine reflects the seriousness of the charges against Woolworths and should act as a reminder to big business that if you engage in dirty tricks you’re going to get cleaned up,” Choice spokesperson Tom Godfrey said.

“Laundry detergent is a household staple and, since ultra-concentrate detergents are cheaper to produce, store and transport, consumers should have been banking savings in their weekly shop.”

Colgate, Cussons and Unilever produce popular brands of laundry detergent such as Cold Power, Radiant and Omo.

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