Coles decision gives Pit Stop owners hope

By TOBY WALKER

GRAHAM and Kris Downing's legal stoush with retail giant Woolworths to have a liquor license granted could prove to be long and costly, but the outcome of a separate court case in Sydney this week has given them reason to feel confident.

Earlier this week Coles Myer was slapped with a $4.75million fine after it admitted to five breaches of the Trade Practices Act.

The concession came after a dispute with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) over allegations it engaged in anticompetitive practices.

Similar allegations have also been levelled at Woolworths by the ACCC.

Coles Myer agreed to settle the two-year dispute in which it was accused of objecting to liquor licensing applications from smaller bottle shops in NSW and then withdrawing their objections providing their rivals agreed to restrictive trading conditions.

Woolworths has declined to comment on the case and continues to fight the allegations.

It is likely to argue the matter between Coles Myer and the ACCC should not be settled, on the grounds that the outcome may influence its own case.

The massive fine handed down to Coles Myer has given Mr and Mrs Downing hope in their own battle to have a takeaway liquor license approved for their general store, the Palmers Island Pit Stop.

Woolworths objected to the Downing's application in the Liquor Licensing Court on the grounds that the number of bottle shops in the Yamba area was already sufficient.

The costs of mounting the action for the Downings could top $110,000.

Woolworths controls about 25 per cent of the Australian liquor market through its Dan Murphy and Beer Wine and Spirits subsidiaries.



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