Unfair trading practices: What’s the progress on the National Food Ombudsman?

The EU’s unfair trading practices directive must be transposed into Irish law by May 1, with efforts currently underway to establish a National Food Ombudsman authority to enforce this directive, according to Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue.

The minister highlighted this in a response to a parliamentary question on the matter of unfair trading practices from Sinn Féin agriculture spokesperson Matt Carthy.

In his reply last week, the minister said:

Directive (EU) No. 2019/633 on unfair trading practices in business-to-business relationships in the agricultural and food supply chain [UTP Directive] must be transposed into Irish law by May 1, 2021.

“This can be done by way of a statutory instrument, but any measures that extend beyond the minimum harmonisation requirements of the UTP Directive will require primary legislation.”

Continuing, Minister McConalogue highlighted that the Programme for Government includes a commitment to “ensure fairness, equity, and transparency in the food chain” by establishing a new authority called the National Food Ombudsman (NFO) to enforce the Unfair Trading Practices Directive.

“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,” he added.

“The NFO will have a specific role in analysing and reporting on price and market data in Ireland.

My officials are currently drafting a proposal for a statutory instrument to directly transpose the UTP Directive as it stands.

“In addition, the legal requirements for the establishment of a new office of a food ombudsman or equivalent are also being considered, including the requirement for primary legislation in order to give that office additional powers beyond those in the UTP Directive.

“This new office will be an important step in our commitment to bringing transparency to our food sector,” the minister concluded.