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Sobeys CEO supports code of conduct: report

Medline, speaking at Retail Council of Canada event, says code could reduce prices for consumers

Michael Medline, president and CEO of Sobeys’ parent Empire Co., said at a Retail Council of Canada event this week that he does not believe that a proposed Grocery Code of Conduct would lead to higher prices, according to reports.

His position contradicts previous statements from Walmart Canada and Loblaw Cos., who have both spoken out against the code of conduct, saying it could result in higher prices for consumers.

According to a report in The Canadian Press, Medline said he hopes the grocery code, which would include guidelines for negotiating with suppliers as part of an effort to battle inflation, could help reduce prices for consumers. The purpose of the code, which is still in development, is to improve transparency, predictability, and fairness among Canada’s retail and supplier communities, according to a statement from the Retail Council of Canada, and Food, Health & Consumer Products of Canada.

Loblaw and Walmart both said last year they would not support the code in its current form, which has led to suggestions that it could be made mandatory through legislation. Both companies have reportedly claimed that the code would lead to higher prices at the shelf for consumer goods.

“It’s high time this was brought to a close,” Medline said at the RCC event on Tuesday, according to The Canadian Press.

Neither the RCC nor Sobeys could be reached for further comment.

The Canadian Food Industry Collaborative Alliance in 2021 issued guidelines for what it then described as a Canadian Food Industry Code of Practice, and in 2022 the Retail Council of Canada issued a statement saying that more work needed to be done on the code. Details of the most recent version of the code were not immediately available.

In his speech at the RCC event, Medline also called on Canada’s Competition Bureau to end its investigation of alleged collusion among several of the nation’s retailers related to the price of bread. Loblaw and its parent company George Weston Ltd. previously admitted to a price-fixing scheme among bread wholesalers and retailers, and since then other retailers have been accused of being involved.

Medline reaffirmed Sobeys’ denial of involvement in the scheme, and said the ongoing investigation only undermines consumer confidence in the industry. 

“Their investigation drags on and the cloud over our head remains,” he said.

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