The COVID-19 pandemic is dramatically changing the global economic landscape and causing severe disruption to Australian small businesses, according to ACCC chair, Rod Sims.
Speaking via Zoom at an event organised by the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Sims said small business is doing it tough, forced to restrict hours, lay off staff and, for too many, close their doors.
“We know the COVID-19 pandemic is having a significant economic impact across Australia, which is why we are taking measures to help consumers and small to medium sized businesses.”
The ACCC’s immediate response will focus on two broad areas of work. This includes authorisation of crisis collaboration between competitors, particularly in relation to hardship polices, and the establishment of an ACCC’s COVID-19 taskforce to tackle immediate harmful consumer and small business problems arising from the crisis.
The regulator has already granted interim authorisation allowing retailers to collectively bargain with landlords about rent relief during the pandemic. A conditional authorisation had also been granted to allow the Australian Energy Council and wholesale and retail energy businesses to provide financial relief to business customers financially impacted by the current crisis.
Sims also issued a warning to large businesses with allegations they are deliberately choosing not to pay suppliers, demanding large discounts off goods already delivered and also delaying payments.