UK: Supermarket watchdog proposals clear final hurdles in Commons and head to Lords

Christine Tacon

Christine Tacon - Credit: submitted

Campaigners who fought for the creation of a supermarket watchdog are celebrating after it cleared the last hurdles in the House of Commons and headed for the House of Lords this week.

The watchdog was given the go ahead at Tuesday’s third reading of the Groceries Code Adjudicator Bill in the Commons, passing with support from all sides. Norfolk-based Christine Tacon is set to be the first holder of the post.

MP Andrew George, who led the campaign for a watchdog for a decade, joined fellow campaigners in welcoming the creation of the post, saying it will “protect hard-working British businesses from unfair trading practices”.

“I’m delighted that MPs have done the right thing and joined together to protect our hardworking farmers, growers and suppliers from losing out because of unfair treatment from the big supermarkets. It’s fantastic news,” he said.

The Groceries Code Adjudicator Bill will create a regulator with the power to fine retailers who treat suppliers unfairly.

Agriculture Minister David Heath said the legislation created a “watchdog with teeth”.

The Groceries Code was introduced in 2008 following a Competition Commission report into suppliers’ concerns that the big supermarkets were using their dominant market position to impose unfair conditions, such as varying supply agreements retrospectively, paying late and passing on the costs of marketing.

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It applies only to the 10 biggest supermarket chains, which each have a grocery turnover of £1 billion or more.

Mr Heath said it was expected that the adjudicator would need to launch two to four investigations a year.

“If they are satisfied the code has been broken they will have a range of sanctions available,” he said.