The brand behind many of Australia’s favorite ice creams, Peters, is being taken to Federal Court, accused of depriving consumers of choice and potentially lower prices.
The lawsuit concerns the sale of individual ice cream and frozen confectionery at gas stations and convenience stores across Australia.
Their product line includes Drumsticks, Maxibon, Icy Poles, Lifesavers, Billabong and Connoisseur.
During this period from 2014 to 2019, multiple PFD applications to distribute competing ice cream products were rejected by Peters, alleges the ACCC.
Exclusivity is only illegal in Australia when it “substantially” reduces competition.
The ACCC alleges that this five-year contract effectively foreclosed competition because PFD was the only distributor capable of distributing individually packaged ice cream products to domestic gasoline and convenience store retailers on a commercially viable basis.
“We allege that as a result of the deal and Peters’ conduct, the other ice cream suppliers had no commercially viable means of distributing their individual ice creams to national gasoline and convenience store retailers,” said the ACCC President Rod Sims.
“We also allege that a substantial objective of Peters’ involvement in this behavior was to protect its position in the market from competitors.”
The Australasian Food Group (AFG), acting as Peters, denied the allegations in a written statement, saying it intended to “vigorously defend” any legal proceedings.
An AFG spokesperson told 9News that the company has had a close working relationship with PFD for three decades, often sharing distribution trucks, and has entered into an exclusive deal to protect its sensitive business information.
The spokesperson also noted that Peters distributes its own products in many regions – including the metropolis of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane – and that the distribution areas in question only represent a relatively small share of the domestic market, mainly in metropolitan areas or smaller.
Australasian Food Group full statement:
The AFG takes note of the announcement made today by the ACCC and intends to vigorously defend any procedure. AFG has confidence in its position and the arguments that support it. For many years, there have been a large number of commercially viable distribution options available for the delivery of ice cream products across Australia to gasoline and convenience store retailers. We are of the opinion that other manufacturers have not been prevented from supplying their products to retailers under the distribution agreements between AFG and PFD.