By Aimee Chanthadavong

Four retail groups, which represent two million business and five million employees, have joined forces calling an end to the anti-competitive behaviour of the supermarket giants.

The group, calling itself the Independent Retailers of Australia, is made up of the Australian Retailers Association (ARA); Council of Small Business Organisations of Australia (COSBOA); the Australian Newsagents’ Federation Ltd (ANF); and the Master Grocers of Australia (MGA).

The Independent Retailers of Australia has bought ad space in Australia’s major newspapers appealing to the Government and the Opposition to support small businesses and stop supermarket chains cross subsiding their fuel stations.

ARA CEO Russell Zimmerman said they’re sick of the abuse of the power by the supermarket chains.

“Without tougher regulation and better scrutiny being imposed on the dominant chains, small business operators face a very bleak future, as do their staff and consumers,” he said.

“Overseas studies have shown that similar discounting schemes have hurt competition and led to the domination of grocery and fuel markets by major chains, eventually resulting in consumers paying higher prices at the supermarket and petrol bowser when competition has been shut down.

“The discounts represent a short term gain for some consumers.  As competition is lost, workers will be out of jobs and businesses closed.  Consumers ultimately will be stuck with higher prices and less choice.

“We urge the major parties to commit to showing leadership before it is too late for small business in Australia.”

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has been investigating shopper docket offers by the major supermarkets since mid-2012 and warned it will seek court action to stop the conduct and penalties in appropriate cases.

“If Coles and Woolworths wish to offer their customers a discount, it should be off supermarket products, not petrol,” ACCC chairman Rod Sims said in a speech in July.

Australian National Retailers Associations (ANRA), which represents Coles and Woolworths, said the current competitive environment has already significantly increased savings for consumers.

“Shopper docket schemes have the approval of the ACCC and a range of retailers, including IGA stores, offer them as recognition of customer loyalty,” Margy Osmond, ANRA CEO, said.

“Shopper dockets have been around for more than 17 years, and over the last 10 years the market share of independent retailers has tripled in size, increasing to 17 per cent.”