Watchdog for supermarkets

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St Ives MP Andrew George has today welcomed the Government’s decision to establish a supermarket ombudsman to protect the rights of farmers, growers, producers, and consumers against abuse by larger supermarket chains.

Earlier this morning the Minister for Consumer Affairs, Kevin Brennan MP, announced that the Government had accepted the recommendation of by the Competition Commission that legislation be used to create an ombudsman to monitor and enforce the Groceries Supply Code of Practice (GSCOP) which comes into force in February.

The Minister’s announcement stated that the ombudsman would be created after a three month consultation period and would act to independently uphold the GSCOP and have the powers to act on anonymous complaints from those supplying the supermarkets. The consultation will take the matter beyond the next General Election.

George has been involved in the campaign for a Supermarket Ombudsman for more than ten years and for the last three years has chaired the Grocery Market Action Group. The Action Group brings together suppliers organisations, NGOs, and academic experts including Friends of the Earth, the British Independent Fruit Growers Association, Traidcraft, the National Farmers’ Union, War on Want, the British Brands Group, the Association of Convenience Stores and others.

Commenting, George said: “This is welcome, as far as it goes. However, Government ought to implement the Competition Commission’s recommendation without delay. The Competition Commission referred this matter to the Business Secretary over five months ago.

“We’ve had ten years of inquiries and reviews. Surely we don’t need another one.

“We are confident that there will be no adverse impact on consumers. This would not increase prices. The proposal is not price sensitive and the cost vanishingly small. Improving relations between supermarkets and their suppliers will also bring significant benefits to consumers.”

“Supermarkets have been posting record profits in a recession. They have, of course, worked hard to resist this measure but there will be quiet jubilation amongst British farmers and in the developing world.”