George urges supermarkets to accept watchdog


Local MP and chair of a national lobby group, Andrew George, is urging supermarkets to accept the Competition Commission’s proposal for an industry Watchdog to reassure customers and suppliers that they are not exploiting their dominant market position.

The Competition Commission’s report last year showed that concerns about fair trade were not solely focussed on developing country farmers and plantation workers, but also UK farmers, growers and other supermarket suppliers.

George is chair of the national lobby group, The Grocery Market Action Group, whose members include the National Farmers Union, Friends of the Earth, British Brands Group, Association of Convenience Stores, Action Aid, Traidcraft and many others.  They have been campaigning for the Government to make sure that supermarket suppliers are treated fairly.

This week the National Farmers Union has placed a full page advert in a national newspaper to increase pressure on retailers to sign up to a Supermarket Ombudsman.

Consultation on the proposal ends this week.  So far Mr George and the Grocery Market Action Group have secured agreement to work with the Competition Commission on the scheme from the supermarket chains, Aldi, Waitrose and Marks and Spencer.  The Co-op is meeting this week to consider whether it will join the others and work towards the creation of a new ‘Watchdog’ and statutory Code of Practice.  However, Tesco, Asda, Morrisons and Sainsbury’s have all confirmed to George that they remain opposed to the plan.

The MP for St Ives said: “If they have nothing to hide then they have nothing to fear from the proposal.  If they are confident that they treat their suppliers fairly then they should welcome the opportunity to have an independent inspector to confirm this.

“During these recessionary times, suppliers are struggling but the big supermarkets are posting record profits.  I hope that the big supermarkets will acknowledge that the games up.  They want to make claims about being fair traders.  In that case they should have no problem in having this verified independently.”

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