Competition laws relaxed to combat Covid-19  

Business Secretary Alok Sharma  (Photo: JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images).
Business Secretary Alok Sharma (Photo: JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images).

IN A bid to fight against Covid-19, the UK has temporarily relaxed the elements of competition law.

The latest move on Thursday (19) has come as part of a package of measures to allow supermarkets to work together to feed the nation.

It allows retailers to share data with each other on stock levels, cooperate to keep shops open, or share distribution depots and delivery vans.

The move also allows retailers to pool staff with one another to help meet demand.

Business Secretary Alok Sharma said: “In these extraordinary and challenging times, it is important that we remove barriers to our supermarkets working together to serve customers, particularly those who are elderly, ill or vulnerable in all parts of the UK.

“The temporary relaxation of competition law for the food sector will allow supermarkets to cooperate with each other to keep their shops staffed, their shelves stocked, and the nation fed.

“I am clear that we will continue to do whatever it takes to support business through this extremely difficult period.”

British environment secretary George Eustice confirmed that elements of the law were temporarily waived in a meeting on Thursday (19) with chief executives from the UK’s leading supermarkets and food industry representatives.

The government has also temporarily relaxed rules around drivers’ hours, so retailers can deliver more food to stores, and is 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.

Legislation will be laid shortly to amend elements of the Competition Act 1998, which prevents certain types of anti-competitive behaviour. It can be relaxed in exceptional circumstances.

This will be a specific, temporary relaxation to enable retailers to work together for the sole purpose of feeding the nation during these unprecedented circumstances.

It will not allow any activity that does not meet this requirement.

The change to drivers’ hours rules, which came into effect on Friday (20), will mean delivery drivers are able to work slightly longer hours – helping supermarkets offer additional delivery slots, which is particularly important for vulnerable people and those staying at home during the Covid-19 outbreak.

It will also provide extra capacity if drivers are unwell.