Thursday, 15 July 2021
Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine
The Deputy will be aware that the establishment of a National Food Ombudsman is a key commitment in the Programme for Government, which states that the new Office will enforce the Unfair Trading Practices (UTP) Directive. It will also have a role in analysing and reporting on price and market data in Ireland. The UTP Directive was required to be transposed into Irish law by 1st May 2021. Primary legislation is required to establish the new Office and to provide for functions that go beyond the powers laid down in the UTP Directive.
As a first step, the Deputy may be aware that, in April 2021, I signed Statutory Instrument No. 198 of 2021 to transpose the UTP Directive into Irish law directly as it stands, with effect from 1st July 2021. As an interim measure, I have established the UTP Enforcement Authority in my Department. That Enforcement Authority has the powers to investigate complaints from suppliers including primary producers, carry out investigations on its own initiative and initiate legal proceedings for breaches of the UTPs.
Secondly, with regard to the primary legislation being prepared for the new Office, in April, this year, I launched a public consultation inviting views on what functions the new Office should deliver, in addition to the UTP functions. The consultation closed in June and the submissions made are currently being analysed; any proposals made or issues raised will be considered in light of the primary legislation being drafted.
On 25th June, I hosted an information seminar which gave stakeholders an overview of the submissions made to the consultation and of the requirements of the UTP Regulations. The seminar also included a presentation by the former UK Groceries Code Adjudicator.
Once the primary legislation, which is now being drafted, is finalised and the new Office is established, it will incorporate the UTP Enforcement Authority.
I am fully committed to ensuring the Programme for Government commitment is implemented as quickly as possible. The Department is giving this matter priority. However, until the legislation is finalised, I am not in a position to say exactly when the new Office will be established.