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CLA accepts supermart Ombudsman

[Thursday 01 November 2007]
Clamp-down on super market powers?
CLA accepts supermart Ombudsman

ALTHOUGH many country organisations expressed disappointment at the Competition Commission's report on the big four supermarket chains, the Country Land and Business Association has accepted one of its proposals: the appointment of an Ombudsman to adjudicate on disputes between the superstores and suppliers.

The big retails chains, Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury's and Morrison's have stood accused for several years of driving food suppliers into bankruptcy and destroying small retail outlets, particularly in rural market towns, but the Commission largely exonerated them.

But its suggestion that a suppliers' Ombudsman be appointed - which will require Government approval - has been welcomed by the CLA.

"It's clear that supermarkets still have a stranglehold on producers and suppliers and the only way to get to the root of the problem is through an Independent Ombudsman", said Dr Charles Trotman, CLA Rural Economy Adviser.

Dr Trotman continued: "The report agrees with the CLA that consideration should be given to the creation of an independent ombudsman that could resolve disputes between the retailers and their suppliers.

"Over three and a half years ago, the CLA put forward formal proposals for the creation of an Independent Ombudsman to Government and the Office of Fair Trading. It is gratifying to know that, at long last, the Competition Commission has accepted the widely held view that the Code of Practice, that is meant to regulate the way retailers deal with their suppliers, has failed completely to meet its objectives.

"The CLA believes that the appointment of an Independent Ombudsman, with the authority that role would carry, is vital in maintaining the confidence and trust of suppliers in the food chain.

"Without adequate safeguards, that trusts will evaporate leading to a system that is both anti-competitive and unjust. The Competition Commission has provided us with a unique opportunity to ensure that a Code of Practice can work for the benefit of all. The role of an Independent Ombudsman must be to do just that."

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