The Brumby's Bakeries boss who told stores to blame price rises on the carbon tax has resigned and shop owners have been warned against displaying political advertising.
Retail Food Group, which owns the Brumby's brand, has also hired a "social media expert" and sent stores a script to deal with customer queries about the letter sent by Brumby's managing director Deane Priest telling franchisees to "let the carbon tax take the blame" for price rises.
Brumby's franchises were told late on Thursday that Mr Priest had stepped down, only days after the letter, which was revealed by _The West Australian _this week, triggered an Australian Competition and Consumer Commission investigation.
In an email obtained by _The Weekend West, _RFG marketing director Tracey Catterall urged store owners to support the company's efforts to win back customers, which includes full-page advertisements in some newspapers this weekend.
"Customers need to understand that it is you, rather than Brumby's management, who will be most directly affected should they choose to shop elsewhere," she wrote. "Every negative comment made by a franchisee or staff member just gives customers a further reason not to shop at any Brumby's store, which only hurts fellow franchisees' livelihoods."
Ms Catterall reiterated to franchisees - including Federal MP Don Randall - that Brumby's was an "apolitical" organisation, in a reference to Liberal Party-supplied anti-carbon tax placards displayed at some stores.
She said RFG had not inspected the placards "and therefore has not formed any opinion as to their legality" but any franchisees displaying them should "immediately remove them from their business premises". It is understood the signs have not been displayed at Mr Randall's store, managed by his wife.
Climate Change Minister Greg Combet said the RFG response showed the Opposition was causing problems for business operators with their comments on the carbon price.
Last week, the Opposition called on small business to put up a Liberal Party-endorsed flyer that linked power increases directly with the carbon policy.
"Ms Catterall's statement just highlights the irresponsible and desperate approach (Tony) Abbott has taken," Mr Combet said.
RFG's brands also include Donut King and Michel's Patisserie.It has 300 Brumby's stores in Australia and New Zealand.