The Government will consider bringing in a grocery ombudsman itself if the Competition Commission cannot come to an agreement with the supermarkets.

In its response to the Commission’s inquiry into the UK grocery sector, the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform noted that the Commission is engaging with big grocers to implement an ombudsman regime and added that, if Government action is necessary, “any assessment [would be] based primarily on consumers’ best interests”.

An Asda spokeswoman said it was pleased that the Government recognises that consumers should be top of the agenda. Asda has concerns over the potential cost of an ombudsman.

On the issue of the recommendation for a competition test, the Government said it needs further time to reflect, following the legal challenge launched by Tesco against that recommendation at the end of June.

Consumer Affairs Minister Gareth Thomas said: “Many of the measures the Commission has identified will benefit consumers and I hope that it can implement them quickly. Further work, dialogue and consultation will take place on the recommendations put to Government.”

Association of Convenience Stores chief executive James Lowman said the Government will legislate if no voluntary agreement is possible.

He said: “Government, by failing to endorse the Commission’s position, has undermined its ability to negotiate and made it far less likely that the big retailers will agree to a voluntary solution.”