Client signing contract in the office

The ACCC is allowing retailers to collectively bargain rent relief with landlords during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The interim authorisation, granted to the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) and its current and future members, allows retailers to share information relevant to negotiations including requests by landlords for certain information as part of their consideration of support.

It is voluntary and temporary and does not include individual tenants exchanging information about their rent amount or rent incentives granted previously. The authorisation has regard to the proposed mandatory code of conduct which sets out good faith leasing principles applicable between landlords and small and medium shopping centre tenants.

ACCC chair Rod Sims said there is a clear public benefit in allowing retailers to work together in negotiations with landlords.

“It will help those tenants experiencing financial hardship during this pandemic to reach a fair outcome. We need to maintain strong competition in the retail sector and supporting these businesses will help with economic recovery once the pandemic subsides.”

The announcement coincides with the decision by retailers such as Myer to extend the temporary closure of physical stores until at least 11 May 2020. The department store has suggested that store openings may occur on a staged basis, taking account government measures across different states and localities.