Coles, Woolworths CEOs to face grilling at senate inquiry on Tuesday

Ellen RansleyNCA NewsWire
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Camera IconNot Supplied Credit: NCA NewsWire

Coles and Woolworths will face a grilling on Tuesday when the appear before a Senate inquiry set to probe the supermarket giants’ executives over high grocery prices.

Both supermarkets have faced criticism in recent years for raking in multi-billion dollar profits during the cost-0f-living crisis, and their market dominance has been called into question as the government considers how to ease pressure on consumers.

Coles and Woolworths account for an estimated two-thirds of the market.

Outgoing Woolworths chief executive Brad Banducci and his Coles counterpart Leah Weckert are set to face intense questioning when they front up to the Senate inquiry in Canberra on Wednesday.

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Coles CEO Leah Weckert
Camera IconColes CEO Leah Weckert will appear before the inquiry. Credit: News Corp Australia, NCA NewsWire / Nicki Connolly
As will outgoing Woolworths chief Brad Banducci. NCA NewsWire
Camera IconAs will outgoing Woolworths chief Brad Banducci. NCA NewsWire Credit: NCA NewsWire

Victorian Liberal senator Jane Hume said senators would pressure the pair over why they “feel the need to pass on higher prices to consumers”.

“There was some interesting testimony yesterday, and I suppose they’ll have to respond to some of the allegations that were made,” she told Sky News.

On Monday, senators heard from industry whistleblower Abdel Badoura, who said he had witnessed “first hand” how Coles and Woolworths had manipulated the market.

Mr Badoura had sat in on price negotiations with suppliers for a decade, and said said the chains exploited their duopoly to push around suppliers seeking a price increase on their products.

“Coles and Woolworths are running risk-free businesses, they are propped up by suppliers who are paying for the majority of their expenses, with the Australian public being overcharged at every step,” Mr Badoura said on Monday.

“They have gotten away with this for years due to the lack of competition in the market and their market power abuse.”

Camera IconThe supermarket giants are facing pressure over high grocery prices. NCA NewsWire / Roy VanDerVegt Credit: News Corp Australia

Former competition minister Craig Emerson, tasked with an independent review of the voluntary grocery code of conduct, handed down an interim report earlier this month which flagged making the code mandatory.

Dr Emerson - who is set to appear before senators on Tuesday afternoon - was critical to the idea of divestiture, which has been championed by the Greens and the Nationals, suggesting it would intensify market concentration.

Coles and Woolworths have also been vocal critics of divestiture laws, and are expected to put the case to senators on Tuesday.

In their submissions to the inquiry, both chains claim the supermarket landscape is already competitive, thanks in part to the entry of international retailers Aldi and Costco.

The hearing begins at 8.30am.

Originally published as Coles, Woolworths CEOs to face grilling at senate inquiry on Tuesday

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