Statutory supermarket watchdog considered

The Government may be forced to set up a statutory ombudsman to police supermarkets’ relationship with grocery suppliers, it has emerged.

Supermarket

The Competition Commission has been attempting to set up a voluntary watchdog in partnership with the supermarkets to police a code of practice, which is under its second round of consultation until the end of the month.

The CC has warned if agreement with supermarkets remains elusive it will have to pass the matter to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), which can impose a statutory watchdog.

The code is a new set of rules governing retailers’ dealings with grocery suppliers. It has been set-up after a CC investigation found evidence of anti-competitive consequences of dominant supermarkets’ relationships with suppliers.

The CC does not have the powers to set-up an ombudsman without industry co-operation and would therefore have to hand-over to the Government to set-up a top-down statutory body if agreement can’t be reached.

It expects to make a decision by the middle of next month (July).

Retail trade body The British Retail Consortium (BRC) says the ombudsman would be expensive and unnecessary.

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