NFU and ActionAid unite in call for ombudsman

Farming leaders have joined forces with a prominent UK welfare charity to take out an advert in the national press outlining the reasons retailers should sign up for a supermarket ombudsman.

The NFU and ActionAid have commissioned the full-page advert to reinforce the message that an ombudsman is in consumers’ best interests and will not push up the retail price of food. It will appear in The Times newspaper today (Tuesday May 26)- two days before the deadline for retailers to sign up to the ombudsman proposed by the Competition Commission (CC).

NFU deputy president, Meurig Raymond, said: “Both the Competition Commission and Professor Roger Clarke’s independent research showed an ombudsman would be in the best interests of consumers.

“A strengthened code of practice proactively policed by an ombudsman will give suppliers great confidence to invest and innovate and lead to a better range of quality products for consumers. There is no reason why retailers should not sign up to its creation.”

ActionAid campaigner, Jenny Ricks, added: “The abuse of market power by retailers affects producers throughout the world, but consumers will be the ultimate losers as the choice of products available to them is reduced. If retailers do not sign up to the ombudsman then Government must step in and deliver it through legislation.”

Retailers claim that the appointment of a supermarket ombudsman is unnecessary and would just increase the cost of food. However, independent research by competition policy economist Professor Roger Clarke suggested otherwise, showing that an ombudsman would result in more choice for consumers, better products and even lower prices in some cases, such as agricultural products.

“Even very small price reductions and other benefits are likely to result in consumer benefits that far outweigh the modest cost of an ombudsman. A supermarket watchdog would not only benefit consumers but also be, arguably, in the interests of the supermarkets themselves,” said Clarke.

If the retailers do not agree to the ombudsman, the CC has said it will recommend that the Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) takes steps to establish one.