Mairead McGuinness MEP and first Vice-President of the European Parliament said the Government will now need to act quickly and decide if a separate regulator needs to be set up to begin planning for new legislation banning unfair trading practices in the food supply chain since the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) believes it should not be charged with implementation of the legislation.
Speaking in Brussels during a meeting of the agriculture committee, McGuinness said the CCPC believes that a dedicated and focused sectoral regulator should be established to carry out the work of implementing the directive on unfair trading practices.
“The CCPC states that the aim and scope of this Directive requires a dedicated and focused sectoral regulator as its dual mandate to promote competition and protect the interests and welfare of consumers would preclude it from so doing,” she said.
It also expressed grave concerns that its ability to fulfil its current mandate would be irrevocably diminished if it was given the task.
“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 MEP said.
The CCPC has pointed to the complex and evolving relationships, contracts and issues involved in the food supply chain from producer to consumer saying that given the complexity, scope and goal of the proposals that the role of competent authority for the directive should be given to a sector specific regulator, whose sole remit and focus would be overseeing this market and working with farmers, producer groups, wholesalers, retailers and other players to ensure that their competing interests can be fairly balanced.
“I hope to be meeting with the CCPC to discuss their concerns about implementation further but I do not share their concerns that this legislation could see consumers ending up paying more,” the MEP said.
“Claims that grocery markets would become less competitive and that the costs of the directive would inevitably fall to consumers, is something I also disrupt,” she said.
“The Commission’s impact assessment 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.”
It is vital that fairness to farmers and fair prices to consumers go hand in hand, she added.