The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue has established the Unfair Trading Practices Enforcement Authority, which has the power to initiate and conduct investigations on its own initiative or on the basis of a complaint.
The authority is an interim measure until the National Food Ombudsman office is fully established.
The minister is reminding suppliers and buyers of agricultural and food products of their legal rights and obligations under the Unfair Trading Practices (UTP) regulations.
The UTP regulations have been applicable since July this year to all new supply agreements established since April 28, 2021.
From April 28, 2022 all supply agreements, including those that were in place before April 28, 2021, must be in compliance with the regulations.
Minister McConalogue stated:
“I am taking this opportunity to remind buyers that, from April, 28 2022, all supply agreements for agri-food products must be in full compliance with the provisions of the UTP regulations.”
The regulations, which only apply to business-to-business relationships, aim to improve the position of farmers and small and medium-sized businesses by prohibiting specific unfair trading practices.
One of the key principles of the UTP regulations is to protect farmers, farmer organisations and other weaker suppliers in the agricultural and food supply chain against stronger buyers.
The regulations prohibit 16 unfair practices, 10 of which are prohibited in all circumstances, and a further six which are prohibited unless the parties agree clearly and unambiguously beforehand.
Prohibited practices on all grounds include payments later than 30 days for perishable agricultural and food products or short-notice cancellations of such.
Unfair Trading Practices Enforcement
To oversee compliance with the regulations, the minister has established the Unfair Trading Practices Enforcement Authority.
“The Unfair Trading Practices Enforcement Authority has been established as an interim measure within my department pending the finalisation of primary legislation to establish a new office of National Food Ombudsman or equivalent office,” McConalogue said.
“I would particularly encourage suppliers to contact the authority if they feel they have been subject to an unfair trading practice in any recent new agreements.”
Establishing a new authority called the National Food Ombudsman (NFO) to enforce the UTP Directive, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) said:
“This new authority will enforce EU-wide rules on prohibited unfair trading practices in the food supply chain, and will have powers to enforce this directive, penalising those who breach regulations.
“The NFO will have a specific role in analysing and reporting on price and market data in Ireland.
“Primary legislation is required to establish the new office and to provide for functions that go beyond the powers laid down in the UTP Directive. This legislation is being prepared as a priority matter.”