ACCC Deputy Chair Mick Keogh

December 15, 2020

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission says industry compliance with the Dairy Code of Conduct needs to be improved.

The ACCC published an initial review of compliance on Tuesday –  one year after it came into effect, and six months after dairy processors were required to publish their standard form milk supply agreements.

Areas of concern identified in the update include processors’ compliance with the publishing obligations, as well as the Code’s single document, termination and supply period requirements.

“The ACCC has been engaging with the dairy industry over the past year to help farmers and processors better understand their obligations and rights under this new mandatory code,” ACCC Deputy Chair Mick Keogh said.

“In the short time that the Code has been in effect we’ve seen it bring some positive changes to the industry, but we’ve also identified areas where processors need to improve their compliance.

“We invite processors to review their milk supply agreements in light of this update and seek legal advice if needed.

“We also encourage farmers and other dairy industry participants to re-familiarise themselves with their code rights and obligations.”

One of the Code’s core obligations is that processors publish milk supply agreements by 2:00pm on June 1 each year.

To date, the ACCC has announced two enforcement outcomes relating to failures to publish by the deadline, and investigations into others continue.

“Dairy processors must ensure they meet their publishing obligations under the Code and our enforcement action to date shows that we take non-compliance with these obligations seriously. Processors and farmers must also be certain that the agreements themselves, including the terms, comply with the code’s various requirements,” Mr Keogh said.

From January 1, all milk supply agreements, regardless of when they were entered into, must be compliant with the Code.

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UPDATE December 17:  

The Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Kate Carnell has encouraged dairy farmers in dispute to contact her office.

She said the issues raised by the ACCC highlight the need for dairy industry participants to understand their rights and obligations under the Code.

She said her office was ready to provide assistance with disputes that arise under the Code.

“My office can provide small and family business owners in the dairy industry with information on the Code, as well as options to resolve disputes and access to mediation and arbitration services.”

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