New code of conduct for grocery retailers

 

THE GOVERNMENT is to introduce a statutory code of conduct for grocery retailers and suppliers, in spite of opposition from the bigger operators.

Minister for Enterprise and Employment Mary Coughlan will announce later this month that a code is being introduced and an ombudsman appointed to referee disputes in the grocery sector.

The code will operate on a voluntary basis initially but will be put on a statutory footing when the National Consumer Agency and the Competition Authority are merged into a single body.

Details of the Irish code have not yet been published but it is expected that the grocery trade will have to fund the ombudsman. The code will apply only to retailers above a certain size and is likely to prohibit a wide variety of payments currently demanded by big retailers in return for listing or promoting products in their stores.

The payments have been blamed for inflating the cost of groceries for the consumer.

However, big retailers say the code will result in higher prices for consumers, a position backed by the Competition Authority in its submission to a consultation on the new proposals.

The code is being introduced in response to widespread complaints by both retailers and suppliers about practices in the grocery sector.

News of the imminent introduction of the code was revealed yesterday by Minister for Agriculture Brendan Smith, who told an Irish Farmers’ Association conference it was being introduced to regulate the increasing concentration of power with the supermarket multiples. Newly elected president of the IFA, John Bryan, welcomed the announcement.