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  • The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has temporarily lifted one of its golden rules to help out Aussie shoppers
  • Since COVID-19 has induced panic buying, the ACCC is allowing major supermarkets to join forces and share information on suppliers and manufacturers
  • This limited time decision was made in reflection of panic-stricken Australians buying out their local shops and leaving shelves bare
  • Supermarkets involved include Aldi, IGA, Woolworths, Coles, and Metcash
  • Additionally, the consumer watchdog has allowed Regional Express to share services with rivals Virgin Australia and Qantas
  • 10 regional routes have been given the go-ahead to transport testing samples from regional to metropolitan areas

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has made a decision allowing major supermarkets to work together to get shelves stocked.

Additionally, the consumer watchdog has allowed Regional Express (REX) to share services with rivals Virgin Australia and Qantas on 10 regional routes during the coronavirus pandemic.

This announcement came off the back of REX stating it may not be able to transport COVID-19 testing samples from regional areas to capital cities for unless it receives a government bailout.

Normally co-ordinated action between these three national airlines would trigger competition alarm bells.

“This very prompt decision, and the one taken earlier with regards to the banks, will make a critical difference for all Australians, especially those in regional and rural communities, to survive this unprecedented crisis,” Rex Deputy Chairman John Sharp said.

This news follows the ACCC’s surprise decision to allow big supermarkets, like Woolworths and Coles, coordinate their buying efforts with manufacturers and suppliers.

Normally, this temporary solution to get shelves evenly distributed with food and supplies would be considered collusion.

Supermarket chains that will be allowed to coordinate their efforts include Coles, Woolworths, IGA, Aldi, and Metcash.

“Australia’s supermarkets have experienced unprecedented demand for groceries in recent weeks, both in store and online, which has led to shortages of some products and disruption to delivery services,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said this week.

“This is essentially due to unnecessary panic buying, and the logistics challenge this presents, rather than an underlying supply problem. We believe allowing these businesses to work together to discuss further solutions is appropriate and necessary at this time.”

Empty shelves and senior citizens hour

Panic buying and hoarding of supplies has plagued supermarkets around Australia since COVID-19 hit our shores.

Despite no danger posed on supplies and home-owned brands of food to run out of stock — many took it upon themselves to buy ahead of schedule. Since then, others have voiced dismay on missing out.

In an effort to help those most vulnerable, stores such as Woolworths have implemented dedicated time slots for senior citizens to shop.

“We recognise and appreciate that individual supermarket chains have already taken a number of important steps to mitigate the many issues caused by panic buying,” Rod added.

In the meantime, The Australian Department of Home Affairs has formed a ‘Supermarket Taskforce’. The team is expected to meet regularly in resolving issues such as empty shelves lining supermarkets.

The taskforce includes representatives of the Government, supermarkets themselves, grocery supply chains, and the ACCC.

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