The inaugural chair of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), Professor Allan Fels AO, will head a two-person independent panel, supported by an independent Secretariat to receive and examine claims involving underpayment of staff by 7-Eleven franchisees.

Professor Fels will convene the Independent Franchisee Review and Staff Claims Panel (the Panel), with former Consumer Affairs Victoria Director, ACCC commissioner and Prices Surveillance Authority chair, Professor David Cousins AM.

The Panel will commence its work in the next week, and will be supported by an independent Secretariat with a team of forensic accountants from professional services firm Deloitte. The Panel will meet and be staffed out of Deloitte’s Melbourne office and Deloitte will provide a hotline service and website for claims, which is expected to be available in the next week.

The Terms of Reference for Panel can be viewed here.

Mr Russ Withers, Chairman of 7-Eleven, has committed the company to promptly “make good” any underpayment of staff by 7-Eleven franchisees.

“The bottom line is, what has happened with franchisees not meeting their employer obligations has happened on our watch, and we are going to make this right,” Mr Withers said.

“There is no doubt that Allan Fels, whose position on this issue is well known, will fulfil this role without fear or favour. He is staunchly independent, and with the support of Deloitte’s forensic accountants, I am confident his involvement will help ensure 7-Eleven pays all approved claims promptly.”

When approached to accept the role of Panel Chair, Professor Fels said he insisted that the Panel’s independence be protected.

“While Professor Cousins and I finalise the panel arrangements, we have broad investigative parameters, with the clear aim to rectify underpayment of staff, as quickly and efficiently as possible,” Professor Fels said.

“We have insisted that extensive efforts, including advertising, be made to encourage those who believe they have been underpaid to contact the Panel. The overall results of the Panel’s work will be made public but the names of individual claimants will not be made public by the Panel.”

Professor Fels said the Panel would seek the support of the Fair Work Ombudsman, which has regulatory oversight, but would act entirely with the intention of correcting any verified underpayment of past or present 7-Eleven franchisee staff members.