The Commission proposes today to ban the more damaging unfair trading practices in the food supply chain to ensure fairer treatment for small and medium sized food and farming businesses. In addition, the proposal includes effective enforcement provisions: sanctions can be imposed by national authorities where infringements are established.
Smaller operators in the food supply chain, including farmers, are vulnerable to unfair trading practices employed by partners in the chain. They often lack bargaining power and alternatives to get their products to consumers.
The unfair trading practices to be banned are late payments for perishable food products, last minute order cancellations, unilateral or retroactive changes to contracts and forcing the supplier to pay for wasted products. Other practices will only be permitted if subject to a clear and unambiguous upfront agreement between the parties: a buyer returning unsold food products to a supplier; a buyer charging a supplier payment to secure or maintain a supply agreement on food products; a supplier paying for the promotion or the marketing of food products sold by the buyer.
The Commission's proposal requires Member States to designate a public authority in charge of enforcing the new rules. In case of proven infringement, the responsible body will be competent to impose a proportionate and dissuasive sanction. This enforcement authority will be able to initiate investigations of its own initiative or based on a complaint. In this case, parties filing a complaint will be allowed to request confidentiality and anonymity to protect their position towards their trading partner. The Commission will set up a coordination mechanism between enforcement authorities to enable the exchange best practices.
The proposed measures are complementary to measures existing in Member States and the code of conduct of the voluntary Supply Chain Initiative. Member States can take further measures as they see fit.
The Commission's proposal will take the form of a European law (directive) and will now be submitted together with an impact assessment to the two co-legislators, the European Parliament and the Council, where Member States' governments are represented.
Thursday April 12, 2018/ EC/ European Union.