The competition watchdog is taking one of Australia’s largest ice-cream suppliers to court over claims it “engaged in conduct” which prevented other companies from supplying single-wrapped ice creams to petrol and convenience stores.
The ACCC confirmed on Friday that it has instituted Federal Court proceedings against Australasian Food Group Pty Ltd, trading as Peters Ice Cream.
Peters ice-cream supplies some of the country’s most well known treats including Drumstick, Maxibon, Connoisseur, Frosty Fruits and BillaBong.
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The watchdog alleges that between November 2014 and December 2019, Peters engaged in exclusive dealing by entering into and giving effect to an agreement with PFD Food Services Pty Ltd to distribute its single-wrapped ice cream and frozen confectionary products to petrol and convenience retailers nationally.
The agreement contained a condition that PFD could not distribute any competing ice cream products in certain locations around Australia.
The ACCC said that during the term of the distribution agreement, PFD made requests to distribute competing ice cream products to petrol and convenience retailers nationally, but the requests were rejected by Peters.
“We allege that, as a result of the agreement and Peters’ conduct, other ice cream suppliers had no commercially viable way of distributing their single serve ice creams to national petrol and convenience retailers,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said.
“Our case is that the distribution agreement and Peters’ conduct effectively raised barriers of entry, which hindered or prevented potential new entry into the market to supply single serve ice cream products to petrol and convenience retailers.
“We also allege that a substantial purpose of Peters engaging in the conduct was to protect its market position from competitors, as one of only two major suppliers of single-wrapped ice creams, who together held a combined market share of over 95 per cent during the relevant time,” Mr Sims said.
“We allege that this conduct reduced competition, and may have deprived ice cream lovers of a variety of choice or the benefit of lower prices when purchasing an ice cream at one of these stores,” Mr Sims said.
The ACCC is seeking declarations, pecuniary penalties, a compliance program order and costs.