There has been widespread coverage in the Mail Online, Telegraph, The Times, The Guardian, Reuters and The Mirror, of yesterday’s announcement (19 March) that elements of competition law will be temporarily relaxed to allow supermarkets to share vans, stock, and staff in order to meet increased customer demand as a result of coronavirus.
The announcement comes as part of package of measures to allow supermarkets to work together to feed the nation. The government has also temporarily relaxed rules around drivers’ hours, so retailers can deliver more food to stores and homes, and is temporarily waiving the 5p plastic bag charge for online purchases to speed up deliveries.
The support for supermarkets comes as the government and retailers continue to urge people to shop considerately and look out for their friends, family and neighbours. The UK’s food supply chain remains resilient and the Environment Secretary continues to meet regularly with representatives of the food industry to ensure people can get the food and groceries they need.
Environment Secretary George Eustice said:
“We’ve listened to the powerful arguments of our leading supermarkets and will do whatever it takes to help them feed the nation.
“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.”
Andrew Opie, Director of Food & Sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, said:
“We welcome this important decision by the government to give retailers greater flexibility to work together to tackle the challenges posed by coronavirus. Retailers have been working hard to ensure shelves are stocked and this is an exceptional step taken by government to help retailers and their suppliers cope with problems that might be caused by widescale absences across the supply chain.
“This is a short term measure, in the spirit of working together, and will allow retailers to agree common specifications for products to bolster food production, and co-ordinate certain operations to ensure customers anywhere in the UK have access to the essential items they need.”