MPs and retailers have called on the government to ensure the proposed supermarket ombudsman has the power to impose fines on retailers if necessary.

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee said the Groceries Code Adjudicator (GCA) should have “the power to impose financial penalties as soon as it is published”. The MPs also want ministers to amend the draft Groceries Code Adjudicator Bill to enable the watchdog to be able to undertake pro-active investigations.

Echoing the committee’s position, Shane Brennan, the Association of Convenience Stores’ (ACS) public affairs director, said: “[MPs] must ensure that the GCA has the necessary flexibility to impose fines if necessary and collect evidence from whatever source it deems appropriate to do its work effectively.”

Appearing as a witness before MPs on the Business Select Committee, Brennan also expressed frustration that the GCA would not be in place until 2013, five years after the need was identified by the Competition Commission. “MPs must urge the government to press ahead with the proposal,” he said. “If supermarkets are able to bully suppliers then everyone suffers, especially the consumer.”

The draft Bill identifies powers for the GCA to investigate complaints from suppliers, arbitrate disputes between suppliers and large retailers, and produce an annual report on compliance.

The BIS Committee is hearing from witnesses as part of its inquiry into the draft Bill, and a report is expected later this year.