Call for government to establish ombudsman

The Competition Commission (CC) has called on the government to establish an ombudsman to oversee disputes between retailers and their suppliers.

The CC has been trying to convince retailers to sign up to the arbitration scheme voluntarily, but the majority have failed to comply. The CC does not have the power to establish an ombudsman itself, so it has made a formal recommendation to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) that it should establish one.

CC chairman Peter Freeman has written to BIS minister Kevin Brennan MP, stressing that the ombudsman is vital to “decide disputes, investigate complaints and give overall credibility” to the revised Groceries Supply Code of Practice (GSCOP).

Freeman called on the Department to set up an ombudsman “as quickly as possible”.

The CC has now published a final Order on its revised GSCOP, and retailers have six months to comply. The new Code of Practice will be included in all retailers’ contracts with their suppliers, and provide a much clearer framework for agreements, with the aim that retailers cannot impose costs on suppliers unexpectedly or unfairly.