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No more delays – and a Supermarket Adjudicator with teeth

Andrew George MP




The MP who chairs the national Grocery Market Action Group (GMAG), Andrew George, has again called on the Government to ‘waste no more time’ creating a supermarket watchdog following the Government’s response to the recent Business, Innovation, and Skills Select Committee report.

The Select Committee’s ‘Time to bring on the referee’ report had urged Ministers to legislate to create an adjudicator to prevent large supermarket chains from abusing their market power to damage the interests of suppliers and consumers.

Whilst the Government’s response accepts many of the Select Committee’s recommendations GMAG has expressed concern that two key recommendations have been rejected.

The Government did not accept the recommendation that the adjudicator should have the power to carry out and investigation where evidence of breaches of the grocery code has been supplied by third party sources such as trade associations. The GMAG has long argued that such a power is vital to provide those in supply chain who wish to give evidence to do so with the anonymity necessary to protect them from potential reprisals by supermarkets.

The Government also rejected the recommendation that the adjudicator should have the power to levy fines. Again the GMAG has consistently argued that without the power to levy fines for serious breaches of the grocery code the adjudicator risks being regarded as toothless by both the supermarkets and the growers, suppliers, and customers whose interests it is being created to protect.

Commenting Mr George said:

“A toothless Watchdog’s bark is always worse than its bite. The Government must listen to reason and evidence as we proceed with this important Bill.

“The competition authorities highlighted nearly 8 years ago the problem of there being a “climate of fear” which meant that bullied suppliers would not take the risk of complaining about unfair dealing practices. The situation hasn’t changed.

“Some of the large supermarkets still object. However, if they have nothing to hide then they have nothing to fear.

“But above all the Government must act quickly. Each and every day of delay risks the supermarket watchdog being introduced a day too late for those food producers who are already going out of business as a direct result of the market distorting power wielded by the large supermarkets.”

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