ACCC concludes investigation into CBH’s Paddock Planner App

Source: Australian Competition and Consumer Commission

The ACCC has concluded its investigation into Cooperative Bulk Handling Ltd’s (CBH) promotion of its Paddock Planner App (PP App) which it had commenced after concerns were expressed by growers.

The PP App is an online estimates tool which collects data from growers about their paddocks, crops and expected yields. For the 2019-20 harvest, CBH offered growers a 50 cents per tonne discount off grain receival fees if they submitted their crop estimates through the PP App.  

The ACCC commenced its investigation after hearing concerns from growers and their representatives about the introduction of the PP App and the potential for anti-competitive and misleading conduct.

“We have now concluded our investigation. We considered all the information available, and concluded that there was no evidence that Paddock Planner App breached any of the competition or consumer laws,” ACCC Deputy Chair Mick Keogh said.

“Nonetheless we remind all businesses with substantial market positions that they must not engage in anti-competitive conduct or mislead suppliers or customers when collecting data from them.”

During its investigation, the ACCC assessed whether CBH:

  • misled growers about the extent of data they were required to upload to the PP App to obtain the discount; 
  • misled growers about how the data would be used by CBH and who the data would be shared with, including third parties and other divisions of CBH such as its grain trading arm or its fertiliser division; and
  • would be able to disadvantage its competitors by accessing data that was not otherwise available to its competitors or obtaining data it would not otherwise have access to.

The ACCC’s conclusion of the investigation was based on a number of factors, including the fact that growers only need to upload information to the PP App about grain they intend to deliver and store with CBH. Growers also have full control over who they allow to have access to data uploaded to the PP App.

Further, the use of the app is not compulsory and growers are free to provide crop estimate information to CBH through its existing LoadNet system, as they had previously done.

While the ACCC does not generally comment on investigations, it was considered appropriate to announce the conclusion of this investigation due to previous public statements regarding the investigation.

Background

CBH is a vertically integrated cooperative that handles, markets and exports grain grown in WA. Its grain trading arm, CBH Grain Pty Ltd, is the largest acquirer of Western Australian grain, while its bulk handling arm, CBH Operations, provides supply chain logistic services to growers and marketers of grain in WA.

Under the Bulk Handling Act Regulations 1967 (WA), growers have to provide estimate information for grain proposed to be delivered to a CBH receival site.

CBH introduced the PP App in 2018 for growers who used its grain storage and handling services.