A coalition of trade bodies has appealed to the Competition Commission for action on the introduction of an industry ombudsman, which would tackle excessive use of buyer power by major grocery retailers.

The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS), the Federation of Wholesale Distributors (FWD), the Scottish Grocers Federation and the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association expressed their frustration at the slow progress that has been made since the need for an ombudsman was stated in April 2008.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: "We are concerned that the slow rate of progress in bringing about an ombudsman presents a risk to consumers, as it is their interests that the recommendation for an ombudsman and Grocery Suppliers Code of Practice were designed to protect.

"We believe that the major multiples will not voluntarily agree the terms for creating an ombudsman and that it is time for the Commission to move towards primary legislation."

FWD chief executive James Bielby said: "A strong ombudsman is needed to enforce an effective code of practice to prevent abuse, and take a step towards a fairer grocery market, not just for wholesalers and suppliers, but ultimately for consumers as well."

The associations called for a statutory regulator with extensive powers of intervention which could impose fines for non-compliance with a grocery suppliers' Code of Practice.

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