ANDREW GEORGE MP
HOUSE OF COMMONS
LONDON SW1A 0AA
Monday 8th February 2010 For immediate release
MP URGES LOCAL PEOPLE TO MAKE THEIR VOICES HEARD ON SUPERMARKET OMBUDSMAN
Local MP Andrew George, who has led the national call for a regulator to stamp out the bully-boy tactics of large supermarkets, is calling on local farmers, growers, suppliers, and shoppers to make their voices heard during a Government consultation.
Earlier this month Ministers at the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform announced that Government would look to create a Supermarket Ombudsman to protect the interests of suppliers and consumers and enforce the new Grocery Supply Code of Practice (GSCOP). Before creating the Ombudsman the Government announced that there would be an open consultation period to establish the nature and structure of the Ombudsman.
The GSCOP came into force on February 4th and will now be included in all contracts governing relationships between retailers and suppliers. The GSCOP provides a clear framework for these contracts. The new code also prohibits retrospective changes to terms and conditions as well as limiting the extent to which suppliers are required to pay for listings, promotions, inaccurate forecasts or customer complaints.
The new code is a result of the findings of an inquiry by the Government's competition watchdog the Competition Commission. The inquiry, published in 2008, found that the major supermarkets were guilty of 'transferring excessive risk and unexpected costs' to their suppliers. The Competition Commission recommended that alongside the GSCOP a Supermarket Ombudsman be created to act as an enforcer of the new code and to police unfair abuses of market power by the big supermarket chains.
During the Commission's inquiry Professor Roger Clark - a competition specialist at Cardiff Business School - published an academic paper disproving the big supermarket's claim that an ombudsman would lead to an increase in prices for shoppers. Indeed Professor Clark's research found that an ombudsman would protect the interests of shoppers and would "lead to more choice, better quality products and lower prices".
Mr George has been leading calls for the creation of a Supermarket Ombudsman for over 10 years. Mr George chairs the Grocery Market Action Group (GMAG). 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, Action Aid, the British Brands Group, the Association of Convenience Stores and others.
Prior to the Government's announcement Mr George met with the Minister for Consumer Affiars, Kevin Brennan MP, Environment Secretary, Rt Hon.Hilary Benn MP and Ministers from the Department for International Development. Mr George has also hosted a Parliamentary Symposium on the need for an Ombudsman that gathered members of the GMAG, politicians and expert speakers to discuss the issue and is a sponsor of Albert Owen MP's new Private Member's Bill seeking the same outcome.
Mr George said:
"After ten years of campaigning and countless inquiries and reports, all of which concluded that a Supermarket Ombudsman was necessary to protect the interests of suppliers and shoppers alike, I welcomed the Government's announcement earlier this year. The Competition Commission and members of the Grocery Market Action Group campaign have been quite clear about the need for a proactive, independent Ombudsman that would have the power to enforce the new GSCOP and could guarantee mistreated suppliers anonymity.
"There is now a danger, however, that the new consultation will allow the big supermarkets to stall for time whilst trying to weaken powers and principles of the Ombudsman. That is why it is essential that local people - especially farmers, growers, and suppliers - make sure their voices are heard by using the consultation as an opportunity to call for a properly independent, appropriately empowered Ombudsman to protect the interests of suppliers and shoppers alike."
The deadline for submissions to the consultation is April 30th. Further information can be found: http://www.bis.gov.uk/consultation-on-taking-forward-the-establishment-of-a-body-to-monitor-and-enforce-compliance-with-the-groceries-supply-code-of-practice-gscop