A wide coalition of European and Latin American organisations representing consumers, workers and suppliers, delivered today over 40,000 postcards and signed petitions to Commissioner for Internal Market, Michel Barnier, urging him to rein in the abusive purchasing practices by supermarkets.
The Civil Society Coalition consider that the European Commission has the responsibility to guarantee the sustainability of the supply chain of agricultural products, which is plainly abused by the largest supermarket chains in Europe. The hand-in of the messages comes ahead of the European Parliament’s plenary vote (11 Dec) on a report by the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (2013/2093(INI)).
Fear of losing essential business
The Civil Society representatives have presented several cases in which the supermarkets purchase products from farmers below cost price, and in addition to ask for lump sum payments or “donations” from suppliers. Suppliers, on their side, are afraid to decline or protest because of fear of losing essential business. Supermarkets abusive purchasing practices cause forced over time, low pay, poor working conditions for the workers and farmers in their supply chains.
Demands ombudsman structure
The Civil Society Coalition demands the creation of an ombudsman structure with pan-European coordination capabilities (several supermarket chains are present in different Member States) to enforce to stop the highly profitable use of abusive purchasing practice. Such structure should be at least capable of receiving confidential complaints, initiate investigations, apply sanctions and shame the perpetrators. Meanwhile, the supermarkets claim a voluntary educational initiative lacking these important elements, is an enforcement mechanism.
It is encouraging that EP rapporteur Denis De Jong – in his report that is to be voted on Wednesday – appeals the Commission to inquire the urgency and feasibility of an ombudsman with the above mentioned capabilities.
A coalition of international development organisations, fair trade organisations, consumer organisations and international unions have been working together to stop abusive purchasing practices which cause so much harm. Coalition members are: Traidcraft (UK), Via Campesina (International Peasants’ Movement), Peuples Solidaires (France), Fairfood International, Oxfam Germany, TVE (Hungary), CIR (Germany), Consumers International and COLSIBA, the Latin American coordinating body for Agro-industrial trade unions and SOMO (Netherlands).
Commissioner Barnier replied to emails calling for stronger rules to stop unfair trading practices between supermarkets and their suppliers.