Woolies, Coles agree to code

Govt welcomes new code that will restrict the major supermarkets from using market power to alter agreements with suppliers.

A new code of conduct developed by the supermarket giants to protect their suppliers has been described as a significant step forward by the federal government.

The code agreed to by Woolworths (WOW),Wesfarmers-owned (WES) Coles and the Australian Food and Grocery Council will restrict the major supermarkets using their market power to alter agreements with suppliers, who have complained of having their profits squeezed by the big retailers.

The voluntary code to be announced on Today will be included in the Competition and Consumer Act.

Federal Small Business Minister Bruce Billson congratulated the council, Coles and Woolworths for moving to protect small suppliers in the highly-competitive supermarket sector.

"Where that competition is fierce and there is an imbalance in market power there is a greater duty and responsibility on those big businesses to wield that power with care so they're not causing harm and damage elsewhere," he told ABC Radio.

The code is voluntary but Mr Billson is hoping other retailers and suppliers, including farmers, will also sign on, The Australian reports.