Michael Pascoe writes:

Roger Corbett: AM,
multi-millionaire, Woolworths CEO, Reserve Bank director, Fairfax
director, Shore School Council chairman – and unrepentantly
anti-competitive by the look of his snarly little release after yesterday being thrashed by the ACCC.

quite a CV, but the last item will do him no favours as Corbett
continues to defend Woolworths ability to misuse its market power to
the last court and lawyer and beyond.

After a decade of very expensive legal action and hot denial, Corbett yesterday finally ran out of courts. The verdict was as clear as the $8.9 million fine plus costs – Woolies abused its market power.

this Safeway case is only one example – the one the ACCC decided to run
with to test the law – of what Woolworths has been up to in this grubby
field. There are plenty of others.

Basically, Woolworths dropped
its considerable market weight on suppliers who sold products to
Woolworths’ competitors who then put them on special. That weight could
be vicious.

As a rule of thumb, only a small fraction of Trade
Practices breaches ever make it to court. Yet on three occasions
Woolworths suppliers have been done over and fined for attempted retail
price maintenance after Woolworths kicked them in the head. The Safeway
case arose after one such example – George Weston tried to stop the
independent retailers discounting its bread.

Now that the law
of the land has been made plain to him, is Roger Corbett at all
repentant? No – it seems Roger’s only regret is losing the case.

regret any finding against the Company with the costs and time taken to
resolve this matter being considerable,” said Roger. The statement was
so poorly petulant that it’s attracted criticism from both Terry
McCrann and John Durie’s Chanticleer column this morning.

doyen Roger Corbett obviously struggles to accept reality when it comes
to trade practices breaches,” writes Durie. Corbett has been one of
Australian business’ biggest whingers about the ACCC.

biggest laugh in Corbett’s statement though is its last sentence: “We
have been and remain committed to work with the ACCC to ensure that our
compliance standards in relation to trade practices and fair trading
are exemplary.”

I can’t understand how that gels with Woolworths
again promising to use every court and lawyer against the ACCC over
what the ACCC alleges
to be “restrictive agreements with a number of operators of licensed
premises in NSW for the purpose of restricting or preventing the supply
of packaged takeaway liquor”. It’s worth reading the ACCC release for a
taste of how retail bullying can work.

The ACCC began action against Woolworths and Coles. Coles decided to cop it sweet, admitted the offence and received a $4.75 million fine.

Woolworths fights on and seems to be happy to face another decade of
legal fees. I suppose that’s its idea of how to “work with the ACCC.”