Government must act on UTPs in food supply – McGuinness

The Government must decide now if a new regulatory body is needed to ban unfair trading practices (UTPs) in the food supply chain, according to Fine Gael MEP Mairead McGuinness.

McGuinness, the First Vice-President of the European Parliament, made the comments after the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) said it should not be charged with implementing legislation in this area.

McGuinness argued that a new regulatory body may be necessary to draw up legislation tackling UTPs – under an EU directive – but the Government must act quickly to decide if such a body will be set up.

It is vital that fairness to farmers and fair prices to consumers go hand-in-hand.

According to McGuinness, the CCPC does not believe that it can take responsibility for legislation in this area, and that a regulator for this specific sector of the economy is needed.

“The CCPC states that the aim and scope of this directive requires a dedicated and focused sectoral regulator, as its own dual mandate to promote competition and protect the interests and welfare of consumers would preclude it from so doing,” said McGuinness.

She added that: “With the CCPC wanting to rule itself out of the implementation of this directive, there needs to be a focus on who should carry out this work.”

The CCPC called for the creation of a sector-specific regulator to oversee the food supply market, and to balance the interests of competing groups, including farmers.

McGuinness also rejected the competition regulator’s claim that the European directive leaves consumers out of pocket.

“Claims that grocery markets would become less competitive and that the costs of the directive would inevitably fall to consumers is something I also dispute,” said the MEP for Ireland Midlands-North-West.

She went on to highlight that the EU Commission’s assessment on UTPs “points out that consumer prices increase at a lower rate in member states which already have legislation banning UTPs than in member states with no legislation”.