November 2011 a set of Principles of Good Practice was adopted by 11 members of the EU level multi-stakeholder dialogue. These principles and the framework are designed to ensure competitiveness and contractual freedom in food supply chains within the EU. In January 2013, seven EU level associations finally agreed on a voluntary framework to implement and enforce these principles.
These principles cover for example the form of contracts, termination, contractual sanctions and unfair clauses in general terms and conditions. Several Finnish grocery trade operators have agreed to these principles (e.g. Kesko Food Ltd, Suomen Lähikauppa Oy and Saarioinen Oy).
Consequently a new self-regulatory body (FIN Elintarvikeketjun kauppatapalautakunta) has been established in Finland to operate under the Finnish Chamber of Commerce as of 29 January 2014. The main objective of this board is to promote the Principles of Good Practice agreed upon in 2011 and to give general recommendations concerning said principles on a national level.
In practice this means that the board will hear joined disputes of high importance, in other words disputes involving more than two parties that have been simultaneously affected by serious breaches of these principles. Joined disputes mean that no individual commercial disputes are heard by the board. The complaints to the board are not directly made by individual companies since the complaints are made by the organizations that represent them in the board, e.g. the Finnish Grocery Trade Association. The board submits its proposed decision for a final approval by a European governance group.
The key properties of this new self-regulated body are that the parties should not be identifiable and that the board has such strong relevant expertise.
It must be emphasized that the final result of this new process is just a recommendation. The worst-case scenario for a company that continuously breaches these principles is that this company may be excluded from the framework which is thought to work as a strong deterrent as it would bring negative publicity about the company concerned.