Coles managing director Ian McLeod has hinted the supermarket giants and the competition watchdog are closing in on a deal over petrol discount dockets.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has accused Coles and Woolworths of predatory pricing through the shopper dockets
Mr McLeod yesterday declined to comment on a media report the big supermarket operators had agreed to cap the discounts.
He said while Coles believed consumers were accustomed to getting value from the dockets, there were contrary arguments about the effect on competi- tion among petrol retailers and supermarkets.
"Discussing where the balance of that might lie is where we are at the moment," he said on the sidelines of a business breakfast in Perth. "The discussions we're having with the ACCC are pretty productive, so I'm confident we'll get an outcome."
Mr McLeod rejected criticism by the boss of IGA supplier MetCash that Coles and Woolworths' fuel discounting was unlawful.
"I don't think there's anything that we're doing that's inappropriate in terms of the competitive environment," he said.
"Part of competition is making sure you satisfy your customers. That's what we've been trying to do for five years."
The Coles boss also urged other grocery sellers to sign up to a voluntary code of conduct governing their relationship with suppliers. A draft of the code - drawn up to address claims of bullying by the dominant players - was released last month.
Metcash managing director Ian Morrice this week said the code was not relevant to his company because it was a wholesaler.
"Metcash might well be wholesalers but they're still dealing with the same suppliers that we are, they're still negotiating with suppliers so I'm a bit baffled why he says it doesn't apply," Mr McLeod said.
He said foreign retailers Aldi and Costco should also endorse the code.
The ACCC is continuing to investigate the conduct of retailers towards suppliers.