New rules will combat human suffering in EU food supply chain

The European Commission, Parliament and member states today agreed on the directive on unfair trading practices in the food supply chain. This directive aims to ban unfair practices used by big EU supermarkets to pressure their suppliers. It must now be ratified by the Parliament and member states before becoming EU law.

Oxfam’s EU Economic Justice Policy Lead, Marc-Olivier Herman, said:

“Oxfam welcomes these new rules as an important step forward in the fight against poverty, inequality and unfair practices in the EU’s food supply chain. They will protect people who produce our food, both within and outside of Europe. By banning the unfair trading practices used by big EU supermarkets to pressure their suppliers, the EU will contribute to ending the human suffering behind the food on our supermarket shelves.

“Civil society organisations will be able to complain formally against supermarkets on behalf of food producers if situations of exploitation occur. This is essential to combat the climate of fear that currently exists in the global food supply chain.”

“While this deal is an important first step, further measures are needed. When member states implement these new rules into law, they should expand the list of banned unfair trading practices and make sure that their national authorities have the necessary power to crack down on supermarkets abusing their power.”

Notes to editors: 
  • Oxfam’s EU Economic Justice Policy Lead, Marc-Olivier Herman, is available for interviews in Brussels.
  • The deal on banning unfair trading practices (UTPs) reached in today’s ‘trialogue’ negotiations will have to be ratified by the plenary of the European Parliament and EU member states.
  • Key elements of the deal approved by the EP and the Council today:
    • The right to lodge a complaint with national authorities against UTPs was extended to non-profit organisations with a legitimate interest in representing suppliers.
    • The directive will protect suppliers inside and outside the EU against unfair trading practices (UTPs) from buyers based inside and outside the EU. The ban on UTPs applies to the food and wider agricultural supply chain and will protect suppliers with a maximum annual turnover of €350 million against larger buyers.
    • The directive bans a total of 16 UTPs including the unilateral cancellation of orders of perishable food products, unilateral changes to important terms of a supply agreement, the refusal to provide a written agreement and commercial retaliation or the threat of commercial retaliation against the supplier when the supplier exercises its rights such as filing a complaint. Numerous UTPs, such as buying and selling below cost, using two-stage auctions to drive down prices or de-listing a supplier without genuine commercial reasons, were not included in the list of banned practices. The possibility is left to member states to extend that list in their national law.
  • For further backgrond, read Oxfam’s analysis of the initial proposal of the European Commission and read TraidCraft’s recent opinion piece.
  • Oxfam has recently launched a campaign to urge supermarkets and governments to crack down on inhumane working conditions, increase transparency about where our food comes from, tackle discrimination against women, and ensure a larger share of what consumers spend on food reaches the people who produce it.
Contact information: 

Florian Oel | Brussels | florian.oel@oxfam.org | office +32 2 234 11 15 | mobile +32 473 56 22 60

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