The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has accepted a court enforceable undertaking from a Melbourne-based fruit and vegetable wholesaler, Young Sang & Co. (Aust.) Pty Ltd (Young Sang), for breaches of the Horticulture Code of Conduct.
Young Sang admitted that it breached the Horticulture Code of Conduct in 2015 by trading in horticulture produce with a number of Queensland-based growers without:
- horticulture produce agreements (HPAs); or
- preparing or making publicly available a document setting out the general terms and conditions under which it would trade with growers (terms of trade).
The Horticulture Code of Conduct is a mandatory industry code implemented in 2007 under the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Cth). Its purpose is to improve the clarity and transparency of transactions between growers and traders of horticulture produce, and to provide a fair and impartial dispute resolution process. A key element is the requirement that traders enter into a written contract (known as a Horticulture Produce Agreement) with the fruit and vegetable growers they deal with.
“One of the key issues raised by industry participants at the ACCC’s recent horticulture and viticulture regional workshops was a lack of clarity and transparency of contract terms,” ACCC Deputy Chair Dr Michael Schaper said.
“It is important that trade arrangements between growers and traders in horticulture produce comply with the Code, and that growers have access to the documents which provides the basis of their business relationship with traders such as wholesalers. This helps to provide certainty for growers about contract terms,” Dr Schaper said.
Young Sang has undertaken that it will not engage with growers without HPAs and Terms of Trade, and that it will place a corrective notice on its website for 90 days and send a letter to all the growers it has traded with since 2015 attaching a copy of the undertaking, its Terms of Trade, and a draft HPA where applicable. Additionally, the undertaking requires Young Sang to implement and regularly review a Horticulture Code of Conduct compliance program.
Issues facing the agriculture sector are a current priority for the ACCC, which has recently completed a series of workshops on issues in the horticulture and viticulture industries.
Notes to editors
The undertaking is available on the undertakings register: http://registers.accc.gov.au/content/index.phtml/itemId/1198488
Businesses can access further information on the Code from the ACCC website: Horticulture Code of Conduct.
The ACCC has established an Agriculture Information Network. Subscribers to this information network will receive emails about developments concerning new or updated resources, enforcement action as well as upcoming events, surveys and other opportunities to engage with the ACCC.
The ACCC is responsible for enforcing compliance with industry codes prescribed under the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Cth). The ACCC has the power to obtain from a corporation any information or documents it is required to keep, generate or publish under a prescribed industry code. If the information or documents provided indicate a significant or deliberate breach of a prescribed code, the ACCC may take enforcement action.
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