Supermarket watchdog must have real powers – Traidcraft

Traidcraft has joined other charities in calling upon the Government to ensure the new supermarket watchdog “has teeth”.

The fairtrade organisation staged a protest on Wednesday outside the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills alongside ActionAid, Friends of the Earth, SPEAK and War on Want.

The charities are looking for assurances from the Government that the Groceries Code Adjudicator will have the power to fine supermarkets for unfair buying practices that have a negative impact on the working conditions and environmental practices of suppliers and farmers overseas and in the UK.

Traidcraft said that with control of over 75% of the grocery market in the UK , the big four supermarkets - Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons - were able to dictate terms and conditions to their suppliers, often resulting in lower wages and poorer conditions for workers or reduced environmental standards.

Legislation to bring the Groceries Code Adjudicator into being is currently passing through Parliament.

The charities warn that without powers to fine supermarkets, the watchdog will struggle to enforce the Groceries Code and stop supermarkets shifting their risks and unexpected costs onto their suppliers.

The Government proposes naming and shaming supermarkets but the charities say that negative publicity will not be enough to deter the big supermarkets from unfair trading.
Paul Spray, Traidcraft’s Policy Director, said: “If a supermarket ignores the Groceries Code it has signed up to, it needs more than a slap on the wrist.

“Giving the watchdog the power to fine sends a strong signal that it means business and developing country suppliers can have confidence that supermarkets will be held to account for their abusive practices.”

Business Minister Jo Swinson said: “I am grateful to Traidcraft’s supporters for their tireless campaigning to help create a fairer environment for suppliers and retailers, and for all the work they have done with Government on the Groceries Code.

“The Adjudicator will have strong powers to tackle abusive practices, including the ability to name and shame retailers who breach the code. In such a highly competitive market, we believe this risk to their reputation will prevent supermarkets from behaving unacceptably.

“Our aim is to encourage a long-term culture change through compliance with the code, and we need to give this approach a chance. However, if negative publicity proves to be an insufficient deterrent, then the Business Secretary will be able to grant the Adjudicator the power to impose financial penalties.”