Ireland is allocating EUR1m (US$1.1m) to establish a National Food Ombudsman to oversee and enforce new rules on unfair trading practises.

The announcement was made by Charlie McConalogue, Ireland’s Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine, to coincide with this week’s budget, which included a EUR3.4bn recovery fund to support businesses facing the twin challenges from Brexit and Covid-19. 

A spokesperson for the ministry told just-food the establishment of an ombudsman comes under a commitment made in the so-called Programme for Government to “ensure fairness, equity, and transparency in the food chain”, in line with the Europe-wide Unfair Trading Practices Directive that comes into force on 1 May.  

“This new authority will enforce EU-wide rules on prohibited unfair trading practices in the food supply chain and will have powers to enforce this Directive, penalising those who breach regulations,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “The NFO will have a specific role in analysing and reporting on price and market data in Ireland.”

Minister McConalogue said his department will be drafting the legislation needed to appoint an ombudsman next year, with the EUR1m allocated for the initial “start-up costs”. 

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By GlobalData

The Unfair Trading Practices Directive was adopted by the European Union in April 2019, with countries given two years to comply. It seeks to deal with six key objectives: late payments for perishable food products; last minute order cancellations; unilateral changes to contracts; refusal to enter into a written contract; returning unsold or wasted products; and payment for buyer’s marketing.

Ireland’s organisation representing food and drink manufacturers, Food Drink Ireland, welcomed the ombudsman announcement, emphasising it hopes the provisions made in the Grocery Goods Undertakings Regulations 2016 – implemented in April of that year under the 2007 Consumer Protection Act – will also remain in force.

Paul Kelly, FDI’s director, said: “National transposition of the Unfair Trading Practices Directive must ensure effective and efficient enforcement and there must be no roll-back on current protections in the Grocery Goods Undertakings Regulations 2016. The extent of proactivity by the enforcement authority in ensuring compliance with the Regulations will be a defining issue”.