Return to

The need for a grocery Ombudsman in the UK.

May 11th 2012 ~ "Mr Kendall said unnecessary provisions could fetter an adjudicator's ability to investigate unfair practices by supermarkets."

May 9th 2012 ~ The Government is urged to ensure the Adjudicator has sufficient powers to clamp down on the 'bully boy behaviour of supermarket buyers'

April 27th 2012 ~ "She will not be disappointed"?

April 17th 2012 ~ The watchdog that is still too far away for us to hear his bark

January 6th 2012 ~ Mary Creagh expresses concerns over delays in implementing the Grocery Ombudsman

September 21st 2011 ~ Supermarket Watchdog is a top priority, Ed Davey tells the Liberal Democrat conference

September 15th 2011 ~ Andrew George says the Grocry Ombudsman draft Bill won't be heard by MPs until the 2012-13 parliamentary session.

July 28th 2011 ~ Grocery Ombudsman- "The Government should move ahead as soon as possible."

May 24th 2011 ~ Grocery Ombudsman - the draft bill is 52 pages long...

May 12th 2011 ~ "about to publish proposals..."

August 3rd 2010 ~ Officials admit that the supermarket ombudsman Groceries Code Adjudicator may be two years away.

March 31st 2010 ~Ombudsman Bill passes Committee Stage " It is a step forward, whatever the product, including for overseas development..."

See Hansard.

March 30th 2010 ~ Grocery Ombudsman - "only a short ‘wash up' period after April 6 for Bills to be adopted"

March 10th 2010 ~ The Private Members Bill, having passed its Second Reading, will now be referred to a standing committee

February 9th 2010 ~ "stamp out the bully-boy tactics of large supermarkets"

January 13 2010 ~ Andrew George says: Government ought to implement the Competition Commission's recommendation without delay

January 13 2010 ~ "opting for yet another unnecessary consultation rather than creating a clear timetable for establishing a watchdog." Action Aid

January 13 2010 ~ Government is to set up a supermarket ombudsman

Jan 8 2010 ~"high time we had a supermarket ombudsman, but it needs to be proactive and powerful, says Caroline Lucas"

Jan 7 2010 ~ "The supermarkets must be brought to heel"

January 5th 2010 ~ Ombudsman: "Now the pressure is on Lord Mandelson to respond to the Competition Commission's recommendation"

January 5 2010 ~ Nick Herbert says a Conservative Government's Ombudsman would be a dedicated unit in the Office of Fair Trading rather than an independent body.

December 30 2009 ~ Albert Owen's Grocery Market Ombudsman Bill has been sponsored by the following MPs

December 18 2009 ~ Disappointing delays over decision to appoint supermarket Ombudsman

November 29 2009 ~ between April 2008 and August 2009, the retail giants held 13 meetings with BIS officials and ministers, including three with the secretary of state, Lord Mandelson.

November 28 2009 ~ NFU "optimistic" about a supermarket ombudsman being appointed

20 - 23 November 2009 ~ "a fratricidal race to the bottom" Farmers of the Windward Islands appeal to Peter Mandleson for an Ombudsman

November 10 2009 ~Many big supermarkets could miss the deadline on the new Supply Code

November 9 2009 ~ The NFU urges farmers and consumers to write to MPs after the decision on the proposed supermarket ombudsman is delayed

November 4/5 2009 ~ Ombudsman - "Campaigners now have another couple of months to drive their message home." Andrew George

November 3 2009 ~" The ombudsman would ensure that the relations were formally maintained, with a positive outcome. We need a genuine agreement between supermarkets and producers.."

November 3 2009 ~ "farmers are vulnerable to market conditions....supermarkets are placed to exploit that vulnerability..."

November 3 2009 ~ " The issue is about sustainability, security of supply and supporting the farming industry.. Let us streamline it all."

October 30 2009 ~"Is it not about time that we had a proper champion-an ombudsman-to redress the balance in favour of the British consumer and the British producer and away from the supermarket?"

October 13 2009 ~ "This isn't just about protecting suppliers, it's also about long-term consumer interest."

Oct 1 2009 ~ suggestion that retailers "dealt mainly with large suppliers" refuted

Sept 14 2009 ~ "A supermarket ombudsman would be a step in the right direction but it won't be enough to ensure that farmers get a fair price for their produce."

August 25 2009 ~ Supermarket Ombudsman - "We will study the findings and recommendation carefully before reaching a decision".

August 7 2009 ~ "enable smaller retailers to survive .. restore vibrancy and character to our flagging high streets."

August 7 2009 ~ "Retailers hit out at ombudsman plans" says Farmers Guardian

August 5 2009 ~ ActionAid comment: Mandelson must stand up to the supermarkets and act on Ombudsman

August 4 2009 ~"We are now left with no alternative but to set out the new Code of Practice" Competition Commission.

August 4 2009 ~Andrew George says, "The days of supermarket bullying of their smaller suppliers must now come to an end"

Press Release by Andrew George 4th August 2009







Tuesday 4th August 2009                                                                                


For immediate release




Andrew George, MP for St. Ives and Chair of the Grocery Market Action Group welcomed the Competition Commission's announcement of a new Code of Practice to protect supermarket suppliers from unfair trading practices. However, he warned that the scheme will only be effective if the Government introduces a new Ombudsman to enforce the Code.


The Competition Commission first proposed the new Code of Practice in April 2008 following an Inquiry into the grocery market which found that some supermarkets had transferred "excessive risk and unexpected costs" to their suppliers.


However, the Commission's attempts to seek a voluntary settlement with the UK's supermarkets to establish a new body to enforce the Code have ended without agreement. The Commission has the power to implement the Code but not to introduce the Ombudsman. This means that the future of the Ombudsman will now be decided by Lord Mandelson, the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills.


Commenting Mr George said:


"The days of supermarket bullying of their smaller suppliers must now come to an end. The Competition Commission has done its job and now Lord Mandelson must accept their advice and introduce a watchdog to keep this behaviour in check.


"The Commission has always maintained that the new Code of Practice will only work if an independent body is set up to oversee and enforce it. It is now up to the Government to take the necessary steps to make this happen.


"The case for an Ombudsman has already been proved by the Commission's extensive and thorough investigation of the grocery market. There has been ten years of inquiries and a failed voluntary code. There is no excuse for further deliberation and delay. The Government must act decisively to promote that fair trading throughout the grocery market."




Notes to the Editor:


The Grocery Market Action Group was set up by Andrew George MP with a view to achieving consensus on some key issues relating to the Competition Commission's Inquiry into the UK grocery sector. The group includes Friends of the Earth, Association of Convenience Stores, Campaign to Protect Rural England, Rural Shops Alliance, Country Land and Business Association, Association of Master Bakers, British Independent Fruit Growers Association, Action Aid, Traidcraft, British Brands Group, National Farmers Union of England and Wales, National Farmers Union of Scotland, Banana Link, War on Want and Breaking the Armlock Alliance.

Further details of the Competition Commission's announcement can be found on their website at:


August 4 2009 ~ Press release

Published 04 Aug 2009 - 07:00
COMPETITION COMMISSION News Release issued by COI News Distribution Service on 04 August 2009

Page 1: 07:00

The Competition Commission (CC) has formally recommended to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) that it should establish an Ombudsman to arbitrate on disputes between grocery retailers and suppliers and investigate complaints under the new Groceries Supply Code of Practice (GSCOP).

The CC has today published on its website, the Order setting out the GSCOP, the formal Recommendation to BIS to establish the Ombudsman, and a covering letter to the Minister of State at BIS, Kevin Brennan. These measures follow the CC's inquiry into UK groceries retailing which finished last year and concluded that measures were needed to address its concerns about relationships between retailers and their suppliers.

In February this year, the CC published a draft strengthened and extended GSCOP for consultation and, after considering responses, it has today published the final Order. Retailers covered by the Order now have six months to comply. The CC does not have the power to establish an Ombudsman itself, and so has been trying to secure the agreement of retailers, making it clear that without this it would recommend to BIS that it establish the Ombudsman instead. After the majority of retailers declined to agree, the CC is pressing ahead with the recommendation.

Peter Freeman, CC Chairman and Chairman of the Groceries inquiry said:
"Our inquiry clearly revealed problems that require action and which, if left unchecked, would damage the consumer. We continue to believe that everyone's interests - and that includes retailers - would be served by tackling a problem that has clouded the industry for many years now. The current economic difficulties if anything reinforce rather than reduce the need for action.

"Whilst some retailers have recognized this, regrettably the majority have not. We made every effort to persuade retailers of our case as it would be the quickest way to establish the Ombudsman. We are now left with no alternative but to set out the new Code of Practice and recommend that BIS set up the Ombudsman to oversee its operation.

"It is clearly desirable that the Ombudsman be established as soon as is practicable. The new Code of Practice will work much better as a result and suppliers and retailers will have greater confidence that its terms will be observed.

"The costs of the Ombudsman, which we think would be about £5 million a year in total including initial set-up costs, are very modest compared with the annual turnover of £70 billion in grocery supplies to retailers. It is obviously for BIS to consider these matters very carefully but we are making our views as clear as we can."

The new Code of Practice will be included in all retailers' contracts with their suppliers and provide a much clearer framework for these agreements. The aim is to ensure that suppliers do not have costs imposed on them unexpectedly or unfairly by retailers.

The GSCOP is based on the existing Supermarkets Code of Practice, but will be amended so that:

- the provisions of the GSCOP are included in every contract between grocery retailers and their suppliers;
- all retailers with groceries turnover in excess of £1 billion per year are included within its scope;
- an overarching fair dealing provision is included;
- retailers are prohibited from making retrospective adjustments to terms and conditions of supply;
- retailers are prohibited from entering into arrangements with suppliers that result in suppliers being held liable for losses due to shrinkage;
- retailers are required to enter into binding arbitration to resolve any dispute with a supplier; and
- retailers are required to keep written records of all agreements with suppliers on terms and conditions of supply.

The Ombudsman would be appointed by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), which would also set an annual budget for costs and expenses. These costs will be reimbursed from retailers using a formula which will take into account the size of retailers as well as the number of complaints involving them and requiring resolution. The overriding objective of the Ombudsman will be to undertake investigations and arbitrate disputes arising from GSCOP to promote the interests of consumers. Its principal duties will be:

- to act as an arbitrator between retailers and suppliers in relation to disputes arising under the GSCOP;
- to receive complaints in relation to a breach of the GSCOP, and where appropriate to conduct investigations;
- to publish guidance on specific provisions of the GSCOP when necessary;
- to make recommendations to retailers on how to improve compliance with the GSCOP and to monitor progress on the implementation of such recommendations; and
- to advise and report to the OFT on the operation of the GSCOP.

In its final report, the CC also outlined the need to improve competition between retailers in local areas. The CC is currently working on demonstrating the benefits of the 'competition test' following a legal challenge by Tesco. The CC published its provisional decision earlier this month. The CC will also shortly publish a draft Order outlining measures to prevent exclusivity arrangements and restrictive covenants being used by grocery retailers to restrict entry by competitors, in a further move to improve competition in local areas. On 29 July, BIS issued a consultation on amending the exemption for Land Agreements from the provisions of the Competition Act 1998 in response to another of the CC's recommendations.

Notes to Editors

1. Under the Enterprise Act 2002 the OFT can make a market investigation reference to the CC if it has reasonable grounds for suspecting that competition is not working effectively in that market.

2. The inquiry was referred by the OFT on 9 May 2006. This market investigation reference followed an initial OFT study into the sector and public consultation. The CC published its final report on 30 April 2008. See news release at:

3. The members of the Inquiry Group are: Peter Freeman (Group Chairman), Jayne Almond, Barbara Donoghue, Alan Gregory, Alan Hamlin and Bruce Lyons.

4. Further information on the CC and its procedures, including its policy on the provision of information and the disclosure of evidence, can be obtained from its website at:








Friday 17th July 2009                                                                                      


For immediate release



 The Chairman of the Competition Commission, Peter Freeman, met Andrew George, MP for St. Ives and Chair of the Grocery Market Action Group (GMAG) yesterday and confirmed that proposals for a new Supermarket Ombudsman were on track. The new ombudsman will clamp down on any evidence of unfair trading practices by the UK's major supermarkets.

 Mr George and fellow GMAG members from the NFU, British Brands Group and Actionaid welcomed Mr Freeman and officials from the Competition Commission to the House of Commons yesterday afternoon to discuss the Commission's progress following up the proposals contained in its final report on the grocery market of April 2008.

 The report recommended the introduction of a strengthened Grocery Supply Code of Practice (GSCOP) to be overseen by an independent ombudsman. Although the Competition Commission has the power to introduce the new GSCOP, it has been seeking a voluntary agreement from the UK's major supermarkets on the establishment of an ombudsman before deciding whether to hand the matter over to government ministers to implement.

At yesterday's meeting the Competition Commission expressed its determination to proceed with the recommendations set out in its report of April 2008. Officials indicated that they expect to implement the GSCOP shortly and to make a decision on the referral of the ombudsman to Government.

Commenting Mr George said:

"The meeting was positive and has helped to reassure us that the Competition Commission is determined to implement its recommendations. We had some concerns due to the amount of time that has passed since the Commission made its original recommendations. We should soon see some meaningful progress.

 "The major supermarkets continue to post record profits. But many of their suppliers struggle, whilst privately complaining about the unfair treatment they receive. Rapid progress is necessary before it's too late for some." 


UK farmers need an OMBUDSMAN

August 4 2009 ~"We are now left with no alternative but to set out the new Code of Practice" Competition Commission.

July 23 2009 ~ CLA launches Manifesto calling on the next Government to develop polices to tackle Food Security and Environmental Security

July 16 2009 ~ We need a supermarket watchdog - campaign targets Peter Mandelson

July 13 2009 ~ Is DEFRA backing the establishment of an independent "groceries" Ombudsman?

May 26 2009 ~ Tesco, Sainsbury's, Morrisons, Asda, Iceland, Somerfield and Lidl are refusing to support the creation of a supermarket Ombudsman.....Only 48 hours left to sign up

March 5 2009 ~ On appeal from Tesco, the Tribunal throws out the Competition Commission's 'competition test'

February 20 2009 ~ "Many are now waking up to the reality that food security is no longer a certainty..."

Email received August 25 2009 from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills

Thank you for your email of 15 July to Lord Mandelson about the Competition Commission's (CC's) investigation into the supply of groceries in the UK.  The Secretary of State receives a large amount of correspondence and is unable to deal with all of it personally.  I have been asked to reply.

The CC has the powers under the Enterprise Act 2002 to put in place the revised Groceries Supply Code of Practice (GSCOP) without involvement from Government.  On the 4 August the CC published the Order setting out the new GSCOP, which will replace the existing supermarkets code (SCOP).  This will extend to all grocery retailers with a UK turnover greater than £1 billion.  The new strengthened Code, (which includes much of the existing SCOP), will include amendments to:

The CC believes that the establishment of an independent ombudsman is key for the effective monitoring and enforcement of the GSCOP.  The proposed ombudsman's role will include:

The CC has sought to obtain voluntary undertakings from grocery retailers to establish an Ombudsman.  These efforts have been unsuccessful and on 4 August the CC made a formal recommendation that BIS take the steps necessary to establish an effective Ombudsman as soon as practicable.  It further recommended that the Ombudsman be given the power to levy significant monetary penalties on retailers for non compliance with the GSCOP.  The establishment of an Ombudsman raises a number of complex and important issues for the grocery market and also to consumers and the wider economy.  We will study the findings and recommendation carefully before reaching a decision.

Further details about the GSCOP Order and proposed Undertakings are available at


Yours faithfully,

Norman Blake
Ministerial Correspondence Unit
Department for Business, Innovation and Skills



Tuesday 5th January 2010                                                                                 For immediate release




Andrew George MP - Chairman of the Grocery Market Action Group - offered a guarded welcome for the announcement by Conservative Agriculture Spokesman Nick Herbert MP that his party supports the proposal to set up a Supermarket Ombudsman. Mr Herbert will make this announcement at the Oxford Farmers Conference later today.


Mr George has been leading calls for the creation of a Supermarket Ombudsman for over 10 years. The Ombudsman as proposed by the Competition Commission would act to police unfair abuses of market power by the big supermarket chains. These abuses harm the interest of consumers, farmers and suppliers.


Mr George chairs the Grocery Market Action Group (GMAG). The GMAG includes Friends of the Earth, the National Farmers Union, Action Aid, Traidcraft, War on Want, the British Brands Group, the Association of Convenience Stores and others.


In August the Government's competition watchdog the Competition Commission referred their recommendation for the creation of an Ombudsman to Ministers. The referral recommended that Government should legislate to create an Ombudsman. However in a November meeting with Business Minister, Kevin Brennan MP, Mr George and a delegation from the GMAG were told that Ministers were about to embark on another round of meetings with interested parties over the final weeks of the year before coming to a delayed conclusion in early 2010.


Mr George and the GMAG have maintained pressure on the Government since the Competition Commission's made this recommendation in April 2008 following a 2 year inquiry. Mr George has also met with 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.


Last autumn Mr George wrote to the Conservative Business Spokesman, Ken Clarke MP, to encourage his party to commit to supporting calls for an Ombudsman.


Responding to today's Conservative announcement Mr George commented:  


“I am encouraged that the Conservatives are making encouraging movements towards the fold of people and organisations those seeking a rational solution to one of the greatest obstacles to the development of a successful British agricultural sector. Although they are not signing up fully to the Competition Commission's recommended remedy, it is at least a movement in the right direction.


“Earlier support would have been helpful, but I am grateful none the less. Now the pressure is on Lord Mandelson to respond to the Competition Commission's recommendation by introducing a Supermarket Ombudsman before the General Election.”









Wednesday 3rd November 2009 For immediate release


The Chairman of the Grocery Market Action Group - Andrew George MP - has warned Competition Minister, Kevin Brennan MP, that the Government risks undermining the authority of its primary competition authority if they refuse to accept the Competition Commission's key recommendation following a two year inquiry into the supermarket supply chain.

Mr George led a delegation from the Grocery Market Action Group to meet the Minister of State for the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills to discuss the Competition Commission's recommendation to create a Supermarket Ombudsman.

Mr Brennan has to decide whether the Government should legislate to create a Supermarket Ombudsman to protect the interests of consumers and suppliers.

In August the Competition Commission referred their recommendation for the creation of an Ombudsman to Ministers that Government legislate to create an Ombudsman to protect the interests of consumers and suppliers from unfair abuses of market power by the big supermarkets. The Government had 90 days to respond to the Commission's referral. By that timetable an announcement is due from Business Secretary Lord Mandelson in early November. But Mr Brennan told his guests that he was now going to embark on another round of meetings with interested parties over the next few weeks before coming to a conclusion.

Mr George's delegation included the National Farmers Union, Action Aid, and the Association of Convenience Stores. The Grocery Market Action Group membership also includes Friends of the Earth, Traidcraft, War on Want, the British Brands Group, and others.

Commenting Mr George said:

"Frankly it would be astonishing if the Government believed it could reverse the conclusion of a two year inquiry on the basis of a few meetings over a matter of weeks."

"This is not a Professor Nutt moment. More a Kelly Inquiry. In other words, the Government would have to come out with some pretty earth shattering evidence to take the risk of contradicting its competition authority, set up by act of Parliament and operating within its own European Act. Government regulators should deal with market failure, it should not be subject to political interference."

"Campaigners now have another couple of months to drive their message home."

Letter from the Farmers' Association of the Windward Islands (WINFA) to Peter Mandleson