Watchdogs and ombudsmen: monitoring the abuse of supermarket power [Book Review]

Agriculture and Human Values 30 (2):259-270 (2013)
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Self-regulation has become a mantra for both governments and private industry in the neoliberal era. Yet, problems remain in terms of supermarket accountability and control. Governments everywhere appear to be under increasing pressure to move beyond the self-regulatory model by enacting legislation which better monitors and polices supermarket-supplier relations. In most cases, the appointment of an oversight authority—known variously as an ombudsman, watchdog, or adjudicator—with the power to set standards and apply sanctions, and to whom suppliers can appeal in cases of perceived abuse, has been advocated. This paper investigates the role of watchdogs and ombudsmen as potential governance mechanisms for overseeing supermarket-supplier relations and explores, in detail, escalating pressure for their appointment within the UK and Australia over the last 20 years. The pursuit of regulatory frameworks to monitor, and adjudicate on, problems arising out of changing power relationships along agri-food supply chains in these two countries has been met with strong resistance from supermarkets; however, after 20 years of debate, it appears that these governments may be on the path towards legislating for an independent body to handle disputes. This paper critically examines ‘self-regulation’ and concludes that watchdogs and ombudsmen are only a partial solution, at best, to the problems that are arising from the neoliberal settings which govern relations between food suppliers and food retailers



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The Audit Society: Rituals of Verification.Michael Power - 1999 - British Journal of Educational Studies 47 (1):92-94.

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