The ability of retailers to strike rent relief deals has been given a boost today after the country's competition regulator granted permission for collective bargaining with landlords.
Around two weeks after the Prime Minister formally announced a mandatory tenancies code aimed at helping landlords and tenants navigate the Covid-19 crisis, the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) has been given interim rights that would not be allowed in normal times.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) plays a vital role in ensuring healthy market competition to the public's benefit, and is one of the most highly rated government agencies of its kind in the world.
But the Covid-19 shock has led the watchdog to make good faith exceptions for a variety of industries, including supermarkets, airlines, medical equipment suppliers, medicine manufacturers, petrol retailers, insurance companies and telcos.
Today the retail sector joins that list, with the ARA's current and future members also given the right to share information that is relevant to rental negotiations.
"We see a clear public benefit in allowing retailers to work together in the negotiations with landlords as it will help those tenants who are experiencing financial hardship during this pandemic to reach a fair outcome," says ACCC chair Rod Sims.
"We need to maintain strong competition in the retail sector and supporting these businesses will help with economic recovery once the pandemic subsides."
The authorisation is voluntary and temporary, and does not include individual tenants exchanging information about the amount of their rent or any rent incentives they were previously granted.
"As with all of the temporary arrangements that industries are looking to implement as a means to deal with the COVID-19 issues they are facing, we will keep under consideration when they are no longer necessary," says Sims.
Having granted interim authorisation for the arrangements, the ACCC will now seek feedback on the application for final authorisation which is sought for a period of 12 months from the date of authorisation.
Updated at 4:10pm AEST on 22 April 2020.
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