Proposals for a Groceries Adjudicator move forward

United Kingdom

Following the Queen’s speech to Parliament of 9 May 2012 which announced that the Groceries Adjudicator Bill will be taken forward in the 2012 – 2013 Parliamentary session, the Bill was today published in the House of Lords.

The proposal for an adjudicator has been slow to take off. The Competition Commission initially proposed the creation of an ombudsman to oversee the functioning of the Groceries Code of Practice (GSCOP) in 2008 following the Competition Commission’s investigation of the grocery sector. The Government announced its intention to create a monitoring and enforcement body for the GSCOP in August 2010 and draft legislation was published in May 2011 (see our earlier law now) which proposed the creation of the Groceries Code Adjudicator.

The Bill published today has been amended from the draft published in May 2011 and importantly gives the Adjudicator greater flexibility in the circumstances in which it can bring an investigation. The draft retains the requirement that the Adjudicator may investigate only where it has ‘reasonable grounds to suspect’ a breach of GSCOP. The earlier draft Bill allowed the Adjudicator to consider only information provided by a supplier and/or information that was publicly available in considering whether or not to carry out an investigation. However, the current draft Bill does not include such a restriction on the information that the Adjudicator may take into account and will allow third parties, such as trade associations, to bring complaints to the Adjudicator.

The next reading of the Bill will be on 22 May 2012. Should the Bill be passed during the 2012-2013 Parliamentary Session, it is anticipated that the earliest the Adjudicator will be appointed is sometime in 2014.

Please click here for our briefing note on GSCOP which provides practical guidance for companies in the sector.