ACCC puts blender supplier in a spin
In May, we reported on the ACCC’s investigation into a KitchenAid supplier, resulting in Peter McInnes Pty Ltd giving the ACCC a court enforceable undertaking to refrain from engaging in resale price maintenance for two years.
This time, the ACCC has launched proceedings against OmniBlend Australia Pty Ltd (OmniBlend) in the Federal Court of Australia, alleging that OmniBlend attempted to engage in price fixing with one of its competitors in breach of the cartel provisions of the Competition & Consumer Act, as well as engaging in resale price maintenance.
OmniBlend is an online supplier of kitchen blenders to its customers in Australia, New Zealand and the UK. OmniBlend and its competitor are the two major distributors of the OmniBlend blenders in the Australian market. The ACCC alleges that:
(1) OmniBlend attempted to enter into a price-fixing agreement with its competitor; and
(2) when that failed, OmniBlend induced its supplier to engage in resale price maintenance (an attempt by a supplier to control downstream prices of its product) by withholding supply to the competitor unless it stopped discounting the price of certain blenders.
The ACCC has also brought the proceedings against OmniBlend’s sole director, Mr Neal Bowhay, for aiding and abetting the alleged conduct. The matter is currently in the Fast Track list in the Melbourne Federal Court and is for Scheduled Conference on 10 October before Justice Gordon. Any attempt by Omniblend to have the case moved to the regular list is expected to be resisted by the ACCC which, as Chairman Rod Sim explained earlier this year, is keen to useenforcement action to help clarify the level of penalties which may be imposed by the courts for particular conduct.
Image credit: Daniel E Lee / Flickr