Senior Counsel Engaged by IFA to Advise on Competition & Consumer Protection Bill

IFA is calling for an independent Ombudsman to oversee and implement the proposed new grocery regulations governing the retail trade. “The independent Ombudsman must be able to investigate complaints and sanction compensation for suppliers who have been wronged.”

The IFA has engaged Michael Cush SC to advise the Association on the Competition and Consumer Protection Bill, which is scheduled to go to the Oireachtas Select Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation on Thursday of next week.

IFA President Eddie Downey said, “Following this legal consultation, IFA will submit amendments to the Bill which will address the key issues of concern to producers in relation to the new proposed legislation. IFA believes that the real test of the new legislation will be a fairer return to producers, which covers the cost of production and leaves a margin to reward their work and investment”.

As the proposed legislation stands, farmers supplying to companies with a turnover of less than €50m will not be required to have a contract, which is a real concern, especially for fresh produce producers. IFA will be submitting an amendment to replace this €50m with €10m, to include others in the food chain.

IFA wants to see provision for payments to be made to suppliers within 30 days. Hello money, ‘pay-to-play’, and payments as part of Long-Term Agreements, have to be banned in the new legislation.

Eddie Downey said, “The publication of this legislation, which IFA has long campaigned for, is progress and is a first step. However, it does not address a number of key issues that IFA has identified as necessary to restore equity to the food supply chain and curb the dominance of the retail multiples. The latest figures released show the three major multiples control over 80% of the grocery market.”

Mr Downey said there was much disappointment expressed by members that the Bill failed to include a prohibition on below-cost selling, that there is no provision to put limits on the use of own-brands by retailers and no compulsion on retailers to disclose profits.

“The Bill has also failed to provide for ‘Retention of Title’ for goods delivered until such time they are paid for and does not address the erosion of production prices resulting from the use of tendering rather than contract negotiation for the supply of certain produce,” said Mr. Downey.

IFA is determined that the Regulations, to be introduced as part of the legislation, must recognise the role of the primary producer in the chain, especially those producers in the fresh produce sector.

“On the proposed merger of the National Consumer Agency and the Competition Authority into a new Authority called the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, IFA‘s position has always been that an independent Ombudsman should be appointed by Government to oversee and implement this legislation. IFA is concerned that the proposed new Authority will not be sufficiently independent to provide anonymity and confidentiality to suppliers who make complaints,” said the IFA President.

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