Europe mulls tougher crackdown on unfair trade practices

By Katy Askew

- Last updated on GMT

Europe could take a more hard-line approach on unfair trading practices ©iStock/szivike
Europe could take a more hard-line approach on unfair trading practices ©iStock/szivike
The European Parliament is examining a proposed Directive to toughen proposals targeting unfair trading practices in the supply chain.

Back in April, the European Commission indicated it could move to prohibit the ‘more damaging’ UTPs to ensure fairer treatment for small and medium sized food and farming businesses. However, a draft report presented to members of the European Parliament’s Agriculture and Rural Development Committee yesterday (10 July) by Italian Social Democrat MEP Paolo De Castro, called for more stringent measures covering the entire food chain.

The Social Democrats are pushing for a common European legal framework to combat unfair trading practices. This should include a minimum common standard of protection across the EU in order to harmonise the different national regulations and prohibit unfair trading practices across the bloc, the political group said.

‘For success of producers and consumers’

Commenting on the report, De Castro said that it is necessary to fight unfair trading practices “for producers and consumers”.

“We have to fight together with the consumer because we have to take on board not only the problems of the farmers, the problem of the cooperatives, the weakness [in that] part of the chain, but even the quality of the food. Because if we just look at the price we are not only squeezing the producer. We reduce the quality and the health of our food.”

De Castro believes that action at a European level could be relatively speedy from this point. “The proposal to the parliament is on the table right now and … we have the opportunity to conclude it in this legislative period. Before the end of the Austrian Presidency we can have this legislation on board.”

The Austrian presidency closes at the end of December this year.

Stronger approach applauded by food industry

Representatives of European farming and food processing organisations welcomed De Castro’s efforts to push through a more stringent pan-European approach to unfair trading practices.

In a joint statement, AIM (European Brands Association), co-operative group Copa Cogeca, the Fair Trade Advocacy Office and FoodDrinkEuropea said they supported De Castro’s proposal to extend the scope of legislation to cover the entire food chain.

“This will align the proposed Directive with the legal frameworks already in place in 20 member states. In addition, the coverage of all agricultural and food products is a step in the right direction,”​ they said.

“Furthermore, the signatories support any efforts to ensure that the Directive leads to an effective cooperation between enforcement authorities especially when addressing transnational UTPs.”

The food and agriculture associations called on MEPs to work with the European Council to strengthen the Commission’s proposal with the aim of creating a “minimum harmonised framework at the EU level”.

“We call upon Members of the European Parliament to work jointly with the Council to strengthen the Commission’s proposal with the objective of creating a minimum harmonised framework at EU level to the benefit of all businesses and consumers.”

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