Kennett to work for Coles


coles,supermarketColes has appointed former Victorian Premier, Jeff Kennett, as an independent arbiter to oversee a new supplier charter, and help resolve commercial disputes.

The Coles Supplier Charter will govern relationships with farmers, food processors, and other grocery suppliers and provide avenues for quick and equitable resolution of disputes. Coles will fund and implement the new Charter Framework.

Kennett has been appointed to the role on a part time basis over the next three years and will form part of a complaints resolution framework that will ensure the company acted in compliance with a new Coles Supplier Charter.

“A key measure to strengthen confidence is to establish a rigorous, independent third party process to resolve disputes, and to ensure Coles is held accountable,” John Durkan, Coles MD, said.

“We accept he (Kennett) has articulated strong views about Coles’ conduct in the past, and that he will do so when and where necessary into the future,” Durkin said.

Kennett will make recommendations directly to Durkan on proposals to resolve disputes, and should there continue to be disagreements, Kennett’s recommendations will be binding on Coles.

“If Kennett feels the need, he is free to publish his decisions or raise any concerns externally, as he sees fit, including through the media, the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission and other relevant authorities.”

The Charter framework will involve three complaints procedures for suppliers: referral to a dispute resolution manager via a confidential process; high level internal review; and, recourse to the independent arbiter. Use of the framework will be free for suppliers.

Kennett, as independent arbiter, will report annually on his activities. This may include recommendations on how to improve the charter and framework.

Coles will also commission an independent anonymous survey of suppliers on the workings of the new system, including any recommendations they might have for improvements.

“Coles understands and accepts its obligations, and extends in good faith this new approach to resolving disputes with suppliers,” Durkan said.

“We aim to do the right thing by our suppliers. If there are flaws or failings, we fully expect to be held to account under the Coles Supplier Charter, including by Kennett, as the independent umpire.”

Nothing in the framework will preclude any supplier from raising any complaint or dispute with the ACCC or under any applicable industry code.

“The Coles Supplier Charter has been designed to complement the great work done by the Australian Food & Grocery Council on a Prescribed Food and Grocery Code of Conduct,” Durkan said.

“Coles will continue to work closely with the AFGC, government, and other industry stakeholders to progress the broader grocery sector code.”

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