U.K. relaxes laws on supermarket competition, drivers' hours
The U.K. government is temporarily relaxing elements of competition law as part of a package of measures to allow supermarkets to work together to ensure that people have sufficient access to food, according to local media.
The move allows retailers to share data with each other on stock levels, cooperate to keep stores open, or share distribution depots and delivery vans.
It would also allow retailers to pool staff with one another to help meet elevated demand during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Environment Secretary George Eustice reportedly confirmed the decision on Thursday afternoon with chief executives from the U.K.0s leading supermarket and food industry representatives.
The government has also temporarily relaxed rules around drivers' hours and is waiving the 5p (US6c) plastic bag charge for online purchases to speed up online deliveries
Over the last couple of days, most of the country's main supermarkets have brought in measures to prevent hoarding, as they struggle to keep shelves stocked during the Covid-19 crisis.
Asda and Tesco are closing service counters – such as deli and fish counters – and joining Sainsbury’s, Aldi, Lidl and the Co-op in imposing limits on the amount that can be purchased.
The online grocer Ocado shut down its entire website and app until Saturday as bosses work on ways to make more delivery slots available. The grocer had already limited orders to existing customers.
David Potts, the chief executive of Morrisons, earlier this week called on the government to change certain supermarket regulations like weight restrictions on delivery vans so that each vehicle can carry more food. He had also urged them to lift competition rules.
Potts was quoted as saying: “There will be legislation that works perfectly in peacetime and not so well in wartime.”
The U.K. on Thursday was registered as having the tenth-highest number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in the world, with 3,269.