The CCPC has recommended that a new dedicated grocery sector regulator be established in light of the proposed EU Directive on Unfair Trading Practices (COM (2018)173) (the "Directive"). The CCPC is currently the responsible regulator under the similar existing Grocery Goods Undertakings Regulations 2016 (the "Grocery Regulations"). This CCPC recommendation may influence the outcome of the public consultation on how to implement the Directive, to which Matheson has contributed.
Speaking at the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine on 18 October 2018, Ms Isolde Goggin, chairperson of the CCPC, suggested that a new dedicated regulator should oversee the grocery sector, on the basis that the Directive's aim to "ensure a fair standard of living for farmers" is a significant departure from the Grocery Regulations. More specifically, the CCPC suggested that there would be an unacceptable tension between possible further additions to the Directive, including a ban on below-cost selling, and the CCPC's remit in looking after the interests of consumers.
Irish grocery sector players will have to wait and see whether and how the CCPC recommendation influences how the Directive is implemented in Ireland and in particular the future of the Grocery Regulations and the CCPC's role thereunder.
UK experience indicates that having a dedicated grocery sector can increase the cost and scope of regulation for business. In terms of cost, Tesco was ordered to pay £1 million pounds towards the cost of the UK grocery regulator's 2016 investigation which found the supermarket had purposely delayed in making payments to suppliers in order to boost profits. In terms of scope, the UK grocery regulator is campaigning for extended powers to oversee Amazon and Boots, as well as traditional grocery retailers.
The Irish experience of the Grocery Regulations to date has not resulted in any announced investigation of a particular retailer or any sanction / fine, but the CCPC announced earlier this year that investigating compliance with the Grocery Regulations has become a strategic priority.
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