Country Care Group’s Bendigo outlet in Bridge Street.

A MEDICAL supplies business with a showroom in Bendigo has been charged with cartel conduct and will face court in Melbourne in a landmark case for the competition watchdog.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission charged The Country Care Group Pty Ltd in February with cartel conduct involving the supply of products such as beds, wheelchairs and walking grant used in rehabilitation and aged care.

The case is the first ever criminal prosecution of an Australian corporation under the criminal cartel provisions of the Competition and Consumer Act.

“It is also the first time that individuals have been prosecuted under the criminal cartel provisions in Australia,” ACCC chairman Rod Sims said in a statement.

Country Care managing director Robert Hogan and former employee Cameron Harrison have been charged.

The company is based in Mildura and has its own branded showrooms in Bendigo, Echuca, Horsham, Sunbury and Sydney’s northern beaches but it claims to have 81 member stores nationally, including in Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, Northern Territory, Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania.

The charges were listed for mention before the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria in Mildura on March 14.

On that date, the case was adjourned to the Melbourne Magistrate Court on June 6.

A statement released on behalf of Country Care said the company had been responding to investigations by the ACCC since early 2016.

“Naturally we are disappointed that the ACCC has decided to commence these actions,” Mr Hogan said.

“Country Care Group has been cooperating with the ACCC process.

“Throughout our 20 year history our business has faced a range of challenges and we are resolutely committed to maintaining continuity of our operations at this time.

“We have built a strong legal team to assist us through this process.”

An individual found guilty of criminal cartel conduct faces up to 10 years jail and the company faces fines of up to 10 per cent of the turnover or three times the profit gained.