Covid-19: Rules relaxed to allow supermarkets to collaborate to feed nation

Competition laws will be temporarily relaxed to allow supermarkets to collaborate in feeding the nation during the coronavirus crisis.

Retailers will be able to pool staff, share data on stock levels, and share distribution depots and delivery vans as the Government seeks to ease restrictions under the exceptional circumstances.

The temporary relaxation only permits retailers to work together for the sole purpose of feeding the nation as they face a strain from intense demand amid panic buying, ministers said.

The 5p plastic bag charge will also be waived for online purchases to hasten deliveries, and drivers’ hours will be relaxed so more food can be delivered to stores.

Environment Secretary George Eustice listened to the calls of retailers and confirmed elements of the law would be waived during a meeting with chief executives on Thursday.

“We’ve listened to the powerful arguments of our leading supermarkets and will do whatever it takes to help them feed the nation,” he said.

“By relaxing elements of competition laws temporarily, our retailers can work together on their contingency plans and share the resources they need with each other during these unprecedented circumstances.

“We welcome the measures supermarkets are already taking to keep shelves stocked and supply chains resilient, and will continue to support them with their response to coronavirus.”

The Government said legislation will shortly be laid in Parliament to amend parts of the Competition Act 1998, which prevents types of anti-competitive behaviour.

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