Public Consultation On Draft Grocery Regulations
The Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation is running a public consultation on draft regulations including new rules for commercial arrangements between certain grocery businesses that are active in Ireland. The Department is accepting written submissions until Friday 27 February 2015.
The draft regulations are to be issued pursuant to a Ministerial power under the Competition and Consumer Protection Act 2014 ("Act"). The draft regulations only apply to "large" businesses in the food and drink sector. However, the public consultation seeks comments on the approach to future regulation of other segments of the grocery sector which can be regulated under the Act (household cleaning products, toiletry products and garden plants / bulbs).
Matheson advised the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation on the introduction of grocery regulations under the Act.
Need to Know
The draft regulations define "large" grocery businesses in a way that covers every manufacturer, distributor and retailer of a food or drink product that is active in Ireland and is part of a group with a worldwide turnover of at least50 million. The Act defines these parties as "relevant grocery goods undertakings". This scope of regulation is wide, in particular by comparison to the equivalent UK regime which applies only to ten named retailers. For example, the draft regulations would apply to a small food supplier that is active in Ireland and is owned by a large non-grocery business. The extent to which the draft regulations apply to groceries business in Ireland which carry out their buying / selling functions abroad is an interesting issue that is not specifically mentioned in the consultation documents. The draft regulations impose a large number of new obligations, such as to: (i) adhere to a prescribed 'form of contract', (ii) include certain terms in written supply contracts, (ii) follow certain procedures for contract changes, (iii) appoint a compliance officer, (iv) deliver staff training, (v) submit an annual compliance report to the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission ("CCPC"), and (vi) maintain certain business records for inspection by the CCPC. The new obligations are intended to come into effect on a particular date and to apply to all contracts that are "entered into or renewed" following that date. The draft regulations impose more extensive obligations on "relevant grocery goods...
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