Woolworths says it is normal practice to audit invoices amid claims it is billing suppliers for accounting mistakes more than five years old.
Australia’s largest supermarket chain is accused of billing suppliers for the old mistakes and deducting money it claims it’s owed from their accounts without permission.
Suppliers are receiving bills, claiming they have charged the supermarket the wrong amount or supplied an incorrect quantity of a product, in a bid by Woolworths to recoup tens of millions of dollars from them by the month’s end, Fairfax Media reports.
“I have received an invoice for thousands of dollars dating back from 2010,” one unnamed supplier told The Age newspaper.
Woolworths says it is usual practice to audit its invoices, just like most companies, and it has done so for some time.
“Where we find an error, in our favour or the supplier’s favour, we take steps to recover or return the money owed,” a company spokesman said on Friday.
The revelations come after Coles was on Monday ordered to pay $11.25 million in fines and costs in a settlement with the competition watchdog over charges of unconscionable conduct in its treatment of grocery suppliers.
The Federal Court found the nation’s second largest supermarket chain deliberately and illegally misused its market power to squeeze small suppliers for money.
The court verdict was welcomed by the Australian Food and Grocery Council, which has also warned its members about Woolworths seeking to recoup money for “profit gaps”, although it is not facing any charges.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission says it has received complaints about supermarket supplier issues in relation to Woolworths.
“We have received complaints about supermarket supplier issues which we will consider,” ACCC chairman Rod Sims said in a statement on Friday.
Mr Sims said suppliers or others who want to provide information to the ACCC should contact the organisation and talk to the senior manager involved in supermarket supplier investigations.