Julian leads group of MPs in lobbying Minsters on unfair trading practices
March 28, 2017
Earlier this month, Julian led a cross-party group of MPs to meet with the Minister for Small Business, Margot James, and the Minister for Agriculture, George Eustice, in his ongoing campaign to address unfair trading practices through reform of the role of the Groceries Code Adjudicator (GCA). The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has held a consultation on whether the GCA’s remit should be extended, and Ministers are currently considering the next steps to take.
The GCA, effectively the “supermarkets’ Ombudsman”, was set up in 2013 to prevent larger retailers treating their suppliers unfairly. Recently, concerns have been raised that the scope of the GCA’s powers are too limited for it to fully tackle the problem, with its current remit restricted to relationships between the 10 largest supermarkets and their direct suppliers. This prevents the GCA acting against unfair trading practices in much of the groceries supply sector, with most farmers remaining unprotected as they often don’t sell directly to supermarkets.
Unfair practices can include late payments, arbitrary deductions to payments, and last minute changes to orders, and can have a serious impact on the operations and income of food producers, and even threaten the viability of businesses.
Julian made the case for extension alongside parliamentary colleagues from the Conservative, SNP and Liberal Democrat parties, fair trade campaign groups, and the National Farmers Union. Julian also invited two farmers to explain their first-hand experience of unfair trading practices to the two Ministers, and the consequences for their businesses.
After the meeting, Julian said “I was very happy to organise such a productive meeting, which I hope has given the Ministers some important additional evidence as they come to their decision on extending the GCA. I feel this built usefully on my previous meetings with Ministers on this subject, and I look forward to seeing what actions the government decides to take to resolve these pressing problems.
These practices prevent producers from having predictable incomes, thereby reducing innovation and investment. This ultimately affects ordinary consumers through reducing competition, and affecting the quality, variety and price of the food we all buy. The current system of regulation clearly needs toughening up through extension of the GCA’s remit.”