Tories pledge supermarket ombudsman creation

The Conservative Party has pledged it will create a supermarket ombudsman if it wins the election in a speech made by Shadow Environment Secretary Nick Herbert.

On the first full day of the Oxford Farming Conference (today) the Conservatives said it will set up an ombudsman which will settle disputes between retailers and suppliers.

Herbert said: “It’s not enough to talk loosely about a fair market or the need for better labelling.  We need action, with a supermarket ombudsman and legislation to enforce honest labelling if the retailers won’t act. It’s meaningless to talk about a competitive agricultural industry while increasing the regulatory burden on farmers and failing to take the necessary action to deal with Bovine TB.

“For too long, farming has been treated by government at best as though it doesn’t matter and at worst as an expensive problem. The short-sighted response to the decades of food surplus was to believe that domestic production was no longer important.”

The Competition Commission has already formally recommended to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills that it should establish an ombudsman to not only arbitrate on disputes between grocery retailers and suppliers, but also investigate complaints under the new Groceries Supply Code of Practice.

Herbert added: “Supermarkets deliver real benefits but some aspects of the way they treat their suppliers can harm consumers as well as producers.  We have a new code of practice which outlaws unacceptable practices such as retrospective discounting, but this isn’t worth the paper it is written on without effective enforcement.”

“As the Competition Commission has made clear, failure to do so could result in reduced investment by suppliers, lower product quality, and less product choice, with potentially higher prices in the long run. It is time to act.”

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