Spar hits the headlines with calls for better terms from suppliers; Sainsbury's admits that any pressure it puts on suppliers is applied within the context of 'positive negotiations' designed to 'further the relationship' between the two; and Booker asks suppliers making sales pitches to keep it simple. A supplier's life is not an easy one these days.

But would suppliers find life better if they were protected by an ombudsman with powers to apply sanctions should the multiples abuse the power which regulators have over the years allowed to accumulate?

The idea of costly and time-consuming bureaucratic investigations into a deal which has gone wrong brings on a sense of dread in some manufacturers.

And would those spontaneous pacts agreed between buyer and supplier over a good lunch be outlawed by a nit-picker jobsworth?

Independents are well-known for their persecution complexes and readiness to find trading injustice. One asked me if he could complain to the ombudsman about aggressive van salesmen persuading his assistants to buy product when he was off site. The answer plainly is no.

Wholesalers are convinced that many, not all, suppliers do not offer terms which reflect the volumes they buy. Suppliers say these wholesalers are getting the right price and should look internally at cutting costs and becoming more efficient. The carousel never stops.

Everyone agrees that the market is complex. But will an ombudsman, armed to the teeth and snorting fire, be a match for the battalions of top-earning lawyers whom the giants would bring into play? The answer is that we will not know until this fair trading supremo is appointed and at work. Government needs to get a grip.

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