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Competition laws for UK supermarkets relaxed to help them respond to COVID19

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Picture credit: Solape Alatise

A number of ministers have been in talks with leading supermarkets trying to understand what they need at a time when sales are skyrocketing and supplies struggling as a result of the corona virus (COVID19)pandemic.

Secretaries of state including Business Secretary Alok Sharma, Environment Secretary George Eustice and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps have been involved in talks.

Eustice said: "By relaxing elements of competition laws temporarily, our retailers can work together on their contingency plans and share the resources they need with each other during these unprecedented circumstances."

Sharma stressed the importance of taking away anything that could hinder supermarket chains from coming together to tackle the crisis. 

Aspects of the Competition Act 1998 will be amended.

The priority Sharma said was "to keep shops staffed, shelves stocked and the nation fed."

Andrew Opie, Director of Food & Sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, said the government's decision to relax competition rules was an "exceptional" decision that would secure access to the most important items get to customers all over the UK.

The urgency for supermarkets working together comes as a result of, at least in part, an overflow of panic buying, with their still being uncertainty surrounding whether or not the UK will face lockdown in the coming weeks.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is yet to categorically deny a UK lockdown and has already announced school closures. Additional some tube stations have been closed. 

Many supermarkets, though not all, have enforced limits on the amount of certain items that shoppers can buy in a bid to try and curtail panic buying. 

Collaboration amongst supermarkets in reality will take the shape of:

  • Sharing distribution depots and delivery vans.
  • Stock level data sharing.
  • Pooling staff to help satisfy demand.                                                           

The 5p plastic bag charge will not be enforced for online shopping in an attempt to make deliveries faster.