The Competition Commission is expected to update the industry on the proposed grocery ombudsman at the end of June, as the deadline for responses on the consultation concludes today.
A spokesman for the Competition Commission said it needs “to carefully consider all responses before making an official response”.
He added: “We will thoroughly review the responses received and – if we can find agreement with retailers – proceed as planned and set up the ombudsman. If, however, we cannot find agreement we will be obliged to refer the matter to BERR (Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform).”
Speculation has mounted that no voluntary agreement on creating a grocery ombudsman is likely and many believe the proposal could even be canned.
If grocers could not agree, the Competition Commission would pass the task to BERR and recommend the ombudsman be imposed but the Government is not honour bound to act on any recommendation.
The establishment of a grocery ombudsman was proposed after an inquiry into the grocery sector that took more than two years. An ombudsman, which would be appointed by the Office of Fair Trading, would arbitrate retailer-supplier disputes and hear complaints about alleged breaches and hear complaints about alleged breaches of the grocery code of practice.
Many grocers however believe it would prove costly and safeguard the suppliers’ interests over those of consumers.