On 24 May 2011, the Government published a draft Groceries Code Adjudicator Bill and invited Parliament to undertake pre-legislative scrutiny. The Groceries Code Adjudicator will enforce the Groceries Supply Code of Practice (the GSCOP) which applies to all retailers with groceries turnover in excess of £1 billion per year. The GSCOP arose from the Competition Commission’s market investigation into the groceries sector. The Government announced its intention to create a monitoring and enforcement body for the GSCOP in August 2010.
The Adjudicator’s proposed duties can be summarised as follows:
- To arbitrate in disputes arising under GSCOP between retailers subject to GSCOP and suppliers.
- To receive complaints alleging GSCOP breaches and where necessary to conduct investigations.
- To publish reports at the end of investigations.
- To make recommendations to relevant retailers on how to improve compliance with GSCOP and to monitor the progress of such recommendations.
- To publish guidance on the operation of GSCOP provisions. In particular, before it carries out its first investigation under the GSCOP, the Adjudicator must publish guidance on how it will decide whether to carry out investigations, its practices and procedures and how it intends to use its enforcement powers. This guidance must be published within six months of the draft Bill becoming law.
- To publish an annual report on the operation of GSCOP, including providing details of disputes referred to it and investigations undertaken. The Adjudicator will be reviewed three years after it is set up and three-yearly thereafter to assess its effectiveness.
The text of the draft bill is available here.
Any comments on the draft Bill are requested by 19 July 2011. If Parliament accepts the Government's invitation to undertake pre-legislative scrutiny, it may wish to call for the views of stakeholders directly to it.