Supermarket ombudsman to vet grocers

THE government is setting up an ombudsman to enforce a new code of practice covering grocers’ relations with their suppliers after a majority of retailers failed to agree a voluntary arrangement.

The code of practice was drawn up by the Competition Commission after an investigation of the grocery industry from 2006 to 2008 concluded that large grocery retailers were passing on excessive risks and unexpected costs to their suppliers.

The Commission asked the government in August to create an ombudsman to enforce the new code after a majority of retailers failed to agree on a voluntary system.

Consumer minister Kevin Brennan said the new code would come into force on 4 February and that a period of consultation would follow on how best to enforce it, including who the ombudsman should be and the powers the position could carry.

The Forum of Private Business welcomed the new watchdog but said more help was still needed for small shops and suppliers.