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Stop large retailers' abuse, says the EESC
Retailers' abusive practices are hastening the decline of the agro-food
A distorted market affects consumers as well as suppliers.
On 13 February, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC)
endorsed an opinion to put an end to these dramatic shifts which are exacerbated
by the economic crisis.
"It is a fact that a handful of retailers control most of the market
and impose their own terms on suppliers. Contractual freedom is a notion that
exists only on paper.
This is an illegal oligopoly which is causing a distortion of the
market, with a widespread abuse of buyer power.
The EESC wants to put a stop to this situation", says Igor Šarmír
(Employers' Group, Slovakia), rapporteur of the EESC opinion on the Large retail
Even though the Commission set up a High Level Forum for a Better
Functioning Food Supply Chain, the stakeholders in the agro-food chain have been
unable to agree on basic principles for combating disloyal practices.
Self-regulation has not worked at either EU or national level.
The EESC therefore calls for a binding legal text to be drafted as a
matter of urgency, for fair competition to be encouraged and for action to be
taken against illegal oligopolies.
The abusive and anti-competitive practices which large retailers impose
on their food suppliers reflect a lack of any real contractual freedom.
As a consequence, the inability of certain suppliers to meet the
requirements of large retailers and the resulting economic difficulties are
contributing to the decline of the agro-food sector in several countries.
Certain Member States, which were once self-sufficient in terms of
foodstuffs, now no longer enjoy food security.
According to market share statistics, 84% of European suppliers to the
large retail sector were victims of a breach of contract in 2009;
77% were threatened with product delisting unless they gave the
supermarkets unjustified benefits;
63% saw a reduction in their invoice price for no valid commercial
and 60% were forced to make payments for which they received nothing in