The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has extended its inquiry into alleged anti-competitive practices by retailers Coles Myer and Woolworths in the liquor retailing sector beyond New South Wales.

Woolworths and the Coles Myers Liquorland chain have been accused of forcing potential pub operators in New South Wales into restrictive agreements regarding opening bottle shops in new hotels. It is alleged that the retailers threatened to tie up liquor license applications in long legal disputes, potentially for years, unless they agreed not to sell alcohol for off premise consumption.

Woolworths managing director Roger Corbett yesterday defended his company: "The process of commercial rationalisation has been a process in licensing courts in Australia for as many years as I can remember," said Woolworths managing director, Roger Corbett. "We have acted in a completely open way and we are clearly happy with our actions." Woolworths has also launched an attack on the ACCC saying it had failed to acknowledge the retailer's co-operation in the investigation.

An ACCC spokesman said: "We are seeking information about whether the alleged conduct has been entered into in other parts of Australia." The commission is thought to be looking into similar complaints in Western Australia.