COLES has made a clever move in asking former Victorian premier Jeff Kennett to serve as an independent arbiter in its disputes with suppliers.
Mr Kennett has been an outspoken critic of the supermarket giant, significantly over its misleading claims about the freshness of its “freshly baked” bread, later identified as an imported product.
Coles copped a $3 million fine for that misdemeanour after Mr Kennett complained to the ACCC about the false claims.
Mr Kennett’s appointment to Coles is part of a new charter governing the company’s dealings with suppliers and will coincide with a pending trial over claims it forced extra payments from 200 small suppliers.
He’s taken the role after receiving a surprise agreement that his findings on disputes would be binding against Coles.
Coles chief executive John Durkan says the retailer expects that Mr Kennett would articulate the same strong views about Coles as he has done in the past.
Suppliers have cautiously welcomed the appointment as an attempt by Coles to improve relationships with them and it will be fascinating to see the negotiations unfold.