In its response to the findings the government said it would await the outcome of discussions between the Commission and its grocery retailers before any move to create the proposed supermarket ombudsman. Should no voluntary agreement be found, it would consider establishing one itself.
The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) slammed the government’s lack of support, claiming that it would delay action and harm consumers.
ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “It is on the issue of a supermarket ombudsman that the lack of government leadership is of most concern. The Commission is seeking voluntary agreement with the major retailers to submit themselves to this new regulator.”
The government’s failure to provide an endorsement of the plans meant that it was “less likely” a voluntary agreement would be met, Lowman said.
He added: “An ombudsman that is effective and has teeth is vitally important in a grocery market that is increasingly consolidated.”
Lowman also bemoaned the government’s decision to take more time to reflect on the introduction of a competition test for planning decisions concerning large grocery stores, following the legal challenge launched by Tesco at the end of June.