DEERING Welcomes Taoiseach’s Commitment to proceed with Consumer & Competition Bill.

24th September, 2013

 

Carlow Fine Gael TD, Pat Deering has welcomed Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s commitment in the Dáil to proceed within a matter of weeks to enact the proposed Consumer & Competition Bill. Deputy Deering was given the assurance during the order of business last week.

The Consumer & Competition Bill will lead to the amalgamation of the National Consumer Agency and the Competition Authority and will give effect to other changes to competition and consumer law including making provision for a statutory code of conduct for the grocery goods sector and will also give effect to the recommendations of the Advisory Group on Media Mergers.

The Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food & the Marine, of which Deputy Deering is Vice Chair, held a total of seven days of hearings from March to July 2013 to engage with the relevant stakeholders in the grocery goods sector in Ireland so as to review the retailer/supplier relationship in the food supply chain.

The Grocery sector in Ireland is dominated by the three major players, Tesco 28%, Dunne’s Stores 21% & Supervalu 20%. These three and others such as ALDI, LIDL, RGDATA and various Food & Farming/Dairying organisations were invited to make presentations to the committee, all except Dunne’s Stores took up the invitation.

“The success of this Bill in my opinion hangs on four key areas; the proposed Statutory Code of Conduct for the grocery sector, pricing and the impact of primary and secondary suppliers, support for local produce and labelling.

“The Code of Conduct for the grocery sector is essential – it must be statutory rather than voluntary. We must remove the doubts an/or allegations regarding upfront money, hello money or delisting money, these practices are vehemently denied by the multiples but for as long as there is no code there will always be questions. There appears to be an unfair and unbalanced relationship between suppliers and the large multiples, this theory is supported by RGDATA and the IFA. Those against the code been statutory or obligatory will argue that it may lead to increased prices, Irish grocery prices are already 17% higher than the EU average.

The committee makes a number of recommendations in relation to the Code of Conduct :

1) That a Statutory Code be implemented without delay.

2) The creation of a post of Supermarket Ombudsman, to represent the consumer, primary producer/supplier and to oversee the implementation of the Code.

3) That suppliers and retailers maintain a statement in writing detailing the terms and conditions of their purchase or sales agreements

4) There should be a mechanism for legal support for small and medium size enterprises that do not have their own resources for contractual documents..

“The committee also make a number of recommendations in relation to pricing transparency and the publication of financial and profits information of large retailers. We are recommending severe sanctions for anyone found to be involved in underhand practices. We further recommend minimum pricing on the sale of alcohol and the practice of ‘loss leaders’ or below cost selling should be prohibited.

“The importance of the multiples sourcing as much food product as possible within their communities is also a key point, in the interest of keeping jobs in the local economy and to ensure a strong link with local produce. Accurate labelling was also discussed at length and the importance of this for the consumer can not be overstated and we feel that stricter rules for labelling should be put in place immediately.