Unfair Trading Practices Enforcement Authority

The Unfair Trading Practices Enforcement Authority is currently established in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to enforce the Unfair Trading Practices (UTP) Regulations. The UTP Regulations protect weaker suppliers against unfair trading practices by stronger buyers in the agricultural and food supply chain.

Buyers - know your obligations

If you are a buyer of agricultural or food products at any stage in the supply chain and the annual turnover of your business is over €2 million, then you should ensure that all supply agreements you have with your suppliers are fully in compliance with the UTP Regulations.

Read our 6 point checklist to ensure your business is fully compliant.

6-Point Buyer Business Checklist for the Unfair Trading Practices Regulations (pdf 1,790Kb)       

Buyers should take appropriate steps to ensure that their organisation is fully adhering to the Regulations. This can include, but is not limited to, a review of organisational policies, procedures and controls in the context of the requirements of the Regulations.

Buyers should understand that compliance with the Regulations goes beyond ensuring that supply agreements do not contain any prohibited clauses. Buyers will be found to have acted unfairly, even if the content of the supply agreement is fully compliant with UTP rules, if the actual behaviour of the buyer breaches the UTP Regulations. Such behaviour can include:

  • Cancelling orders of perishable agri-food products at short-notice
  • Failure to make payments owed or not making them on time
  • Requiring a supplier to pay for deterioration or loss of an agricultural or food product that occurred on buyer premises
  • Refusing a request by a supplier to confirm the content of an oral supply agreement or an oral framework agreement in writing
  • Threatening commercial retaliation against suppliers who exercise their contractual / statutory rights.

To ensure that staff in a buyer’s business do not engage in behaviour that could lead to a breach of the Regulations, buyers are recommended to ensure appropriate training and dissemination of information on the UTP Regulations is undertaken on a regular basis for all relevant staff in the business.

Suppliers – know your rights

If you are a supplier of agricultural or food products to a larger buyer at any stage in the supply chain you now have legal protection against 16 unfair trading practices. The Unfair Trading Practices Enforcement Authority’s (EA’s) Quick Guide for Suppliers on the UTP Regulations (pdf 1,240Kb)     is a useful quick read resource for all suppliers of agricultural or food products.

This website provides further information for suppliers on the UTP Regulations under Overview of the Unfair Trading Practices Regulations, including relevant information on the lower turnover categories that a supplier must fall into relative to a buyer in order to be afforded protection under the Regulations and more detailed elaboration on the 16 prescribed unfair trading practices. The FAQs section of the website provides more detailed clarifications in a whole range of areas relevant to the Regulations.

If you have any further questions on the UTP Regulations that are not covered in the FAQs or you need clarification on any aspects of your rights as a supplier then please get in touch with the EA in confidence via phone or email – details at Contact

If you think you have been subject to any of the 16 unfair trading practices you can make a complaint in confidence to the Unfair Trading Practices Enforcement Authority (EA) – please refer to the Making a Complaint section of this website. 

 

Overview of the Unfair Trading Practices Regulations

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The agricultural and food products supply chain is vulnerable to unfair trading practices due to imbalances between small and large operators. Farmers and smaller operators in the food supply chain often do not have sufficient bargaining power to defend against them.

On 28th April 2021, the Unfair Trading Practices (UTP) Regulations: S.I. No. 198/2021 – European Union (Unfair Trading Practices in the agricultural and food supply chain) Regulations 2021, transposed into Irish law EU Directive 2019/633 on unfair trading practices in business-to-business relationships in the agricultural and food supply chain.

The Regulations afford protection for any supplier of agricultural and food products with a turnover of up to €350 million subject to the supplier’s turnover being lower than the buyer's turnover within stated categories. The Regulations provide protection for five graduated levels of supplier turnover categories relative to the buyer up to the €350 million turnover limit.

The Enforcement Authority can investigate complaints submitted by agricultural and food product suppliers which can include farmers, producer organisations, cooperatives, supplier organisations, organisations of processors, wholesalers/distributors.

All supply agreements are now in scope and must be compliant with the UTP Regulations.  

  • A supplier is an agricultural producer or any natural or legal person, including producer organisations, organisations of suppliers and associations of such organisations who sells agricultural and food products.

 

  • A buyer is any natural or legal person or any public authority who buys agricultural and food products.

 

  • Supply agreement means a contract (whether orally or in writing) for the sale or supply of agricultural and food products by a supplier to a buyer

 

  • The Regulations apply only to business-to-business relationships and do not apply to arrangements between suppliers and consumers.

 

The Regulations apply only to agricultural and food products which means products listed in Annex I to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) as well as products not listed in that Annex, but processed for use as food using products listed in that Annex. The list of such products is very extensive and can include:

  • Food products listed in Annex I TFEU, such as tomatoes or apples, cereals, fish or shrimp, ham, milk, cheese.
  • Products processed from Annex I TFEU products for use as food, such as chocolate, prepared meals or sauces, processed dairy products, e.g dairy spreads or yoghurts.

Annex I TFEU also includes non-food products such as live animals, live trees, cut flowers supplied for planting or for ornamental use, animal feed, milling industry products.

The UTP Regulations protect suppliers with relatively weaker bargaining power. It is not absolute size that matters, only the difference in size between supplier and buyer. The UTP Regulations follow a ‘step-up’ approach according to the annual turnover categories of suppliers and buyers, which is applicable as follows:

(a) suppliers which have an annual turnover not exceeding €2,000,000 to buyers which have an annual turnover of more than €2,000,000,

(b) suppliers which have an annual turnover of more than €2,000,000 and not exceeding €10,000,000 to buyers which have an annual turnover of more than €10,000,000,

(c) suppliers which have an annual turnover of more than €10,000,000 and not exceeding €50,000,000 to buyers which have an annual turnover of more than €50,000,000,

(d) suppliers which have an annual turnover of more than €50,000,000 and not exceeding €150,000,000 to buyers which have an annual turnover of more than €150,000,000, and

(e) suppliers which have an annual turnover of more than €150,000,000 and not exceeding €350,000,000 to buyers which have an annual turnover of more than €350,000,000, or

(f) suppliers which have an annual turnover not exceeding €350,000,000 to all buyers which are public authorities

The relevant turnover is established according to the criteria of the SME recommendation 2003/361/ EC. This means that, in order to establish the turnover of a supplier or buyer, the turnover of any linked or partner enterprise/s of which they may be members, should also be taken into account. A supplier who sells to a public authority can rely on the protection against unfair behaviour of the public authority regardless of turnover considerations.

Prohibited Unfair Trading Practices:

  • Where a supply agreement provides for the delivery of perishable agricultural and food products on a regular basis, a buyer must pay a supplier no later than 30 days after the end of an agreed delivery period in which deliveries have been made or no later than 30 days after the date on which the amount payable for that delivery period is set (whichever is the later). For the purposes of the payment period, the agreed delivery period must be no more than one month. Where the buyer sets the amount payable, the payment period starts from the end of the agreed delivery period in which the deliveries have been made.
  • Where a supply agreement does not provide for the delivery of perishable agricultural and food products on a regular basis, a buyer must pay a supplier no later than 30 days after the date of delivery or no later than 30 days after the date on which the amount payable is set (whichever is the later). Where the buyer sets the amount payable, the payment period starts to run from the date of delivery.
  • ‘Perishable agricultural and food products’ means agricultural and food products that by their nature or at their stage of processing are liable to become unfit for sale within 30 days after harvest, production or processing.

  • Where a supply agreement provides for the delivery of products on a regular basis for other agricultural and food products, a buyer must pay a supplier no later than 60 days after the end of an agreed delivery period in which deliveries have been made or no later than 60 days after the date on which the amount payable for that delivery period is set (whichever is the later). For the purposes of the payment period, the agreed delivery period must be not more than one month. Where the buyer sets the amount payable the payment period starts from the end of an agreed delivery period in which the deliveries have been made.
  • Where the supply agreement does not provide for the delivery of products on a regular basis for other agricultural and food products, a buyer must pay a supplier no later than 60 days after the date of delivery or no later than 60 days after the date on which the amount payable is set (whichever is the later). Where the buyer sets the amount payable, the payment period starts to run from the date of delivery.

  • A buyer must not cancel orders of perishable agricultural and food products at such short notice that a supplier cannot reasonably be expected to find an alternative means of commercialising or using those products. 
  • For this unfair trading practice, short notice is considered less than 30 days.
  • ‘perishable agricultural and food products’ means agricultural and food products that by their nature or at their stage of processing are liable to become unfit for sale within 30 days after harvest, production or processing.

A buyer must not unilaterally change the terms of a supply agreement for agricultural and food products in relation to the:

  • frequency, method, place, timing or volume of the supply or delivery of such products
  • quality standard, terms of payment or the price, or as regards the provision of services referenced in the ‘Grey’ UTPs.

A buyer must not require payment from a supplier that is not related to the sale of the agricultural and food products of the supplier.

A buyer must not require a supplier to pay for the deterioration and/or loss of agricultural and food products that occurs on the buyer's premises or after ownership has been transferred to the buyer, where such deterioration or loss is not caused by the negligence or fault of the supplier.

A buyer must not refuse to confirm in writing the terms of a supply agreement between the buyer and the supplier for which the supplier has asked for written confirmation. However, this requirement does not apply where the supply agreement concerns products to be delivered by a member of a producer organisation, including a cooperative, to the producer organisation, if the rules of that organisation contain provisions which have similar effects to the terms of the supply agreement.

A buyer must not unlawfully acquire, use or disclose trade secrets of a supplier within the meaning of Directive (EU) 2016/943 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 8 June 2016 on the protection of undisclosed know-how and business information (trade secrets) against their unlawful acquisition, use and disclosure.

This Directive was transposed into Irish law by S.I. No. 188/2018 – the European Union (Protection of Trade Secrets) Regulations 2018. These Regulations provide for civil redress measures and remedies in the event that a trade secret is unlawfully acquired, used or disclosed. The Regulations also ensure the confidentiality of the trade secret during court proceedings by limiting access to the hearing and court documents containing the trade secret.

A buyer must not threaten to carry out, or carry out, acts of commercial retaliation against the supplier if the supplier exercises its contractual or legal rights, including by filing a complaint with enforcement authorities or by cooperating with enforcement authorities during an investigation.

A buyer must not require compensation from a supplier for the cost of examining customer complaints relating to the sale of a supplier's products, in the absence of negligence or fault on the part of the supplier.

A buyer must not, unless previously agreed in clear and unambiguous terms in a supply agreement or in a subsequent agreement between the supplier and the buyer, return unsold agricultural and food products to the supplier without paying for those unsold products and/or without paying for the disposal of those products.

A buyer must not, unless previously agreed in clear and unambiguous terms in a supply agreement or in a subsequent agreement between the supplier and the buyer, charge a supplier payment as a condition for stocking, displaying or listing its agricultural and food products, or of making such products available on the market.

If requested by the supplier, the buyer must provide the supplier with a written estimate of:

  • The payments per unit or the overall payments, whichever is appropriate
  • The cost to the supplier and the basis for that estimate.

A buyer must not, unless previously agreed in clear and unambiguous terms in a supply agreement or in a subsequent agreement between the supplier and the buyer, require a supplier to bear all or part of the cost of any discounts on agricultural and food products that are sold by the buyer as part of a promotion. Where a buyer engages in this trading practice, the buyer must, prior to the beginning of the promotion, specify the period of the promotion and the expected quantity of the agricultural and food products to be ordered at the discounted price.

If requested by the supplier, the buyer must provide the supplier with a written estimate of the payments per unit or the overall payments, whichever is appropriate.

A buyer must not, unless previously agreed in clear and unambiguous terms in a supply agreement or in a subsequent agreement between the supplier and the buyer, require the supplier to pay for the marketing by the buyer of agricultural and food products.

If requested by the supplier, the buyer must provide the supplier with a written estimate of:

  • The payments per unit or the overall payments, whichever is appropriate
  • The cost to the supplier and the basis for that estimate

A buyer must not, unless previously agreed in clear and unambiguous terms in a supply agreement or in a subsequent agreement between the supplier and the buyer, require the supplier to pay for the advertising by the buyer of agricultural and food products.

If requested by the supplier, the buyer must provide the supplier with a written estimate of:

  • The payments per unit or the overall payments, whichever is appropriate
  • The cost to the supplier and the basis for that estimate.

A buyer must notunless previously agreed in clear and unambiguous terms in a supply agreement or in a subsequent agreement between the supplier and the buyer, charge the supplier for staff for fitting-out premises used for the sale of the supplier's products.

If requested by the supplier, the buyer must provide the supplier with a written estimate of:

  • The payments per unit or the overall payments, whichever is appropriate
  • The cost to the supplier and the basis for that estimate.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on Unfair Trading Practices

 

Updated 11 July 2022. Key change from previous version: New para 3 inserted in FAQ number 11.

Click on ‘+’ icon to view answers to the FAQs of interest.


UTPs can broadly be defined as practices that grossly deviate from good commercial conduct, are contrary to good faith and fair dealing and are unilaterally imposed by one trading partner on another.

 

Increased concentration and vertical integration of market participants have led to structural changes in the agricultural and food products supply chain. These developments have contributed to a situation of significantly different levels of bargaining power and economic imbalances in individual trade relations between the actors in the chain.

 

While differences in bargaining power are common and legitimate in commercial relationships, the possible abuse of such differences can sometimes lead to unfair trading practices. Such UTPs are detrimental mainly to otherwise viable smaller operators which can include agricultural producers and SME processors of food products and may impact their ability to innovate and undertake new financial investments in new products and technology.

An EU Directive on UTPs in business-to-business relations in the agricultural and food supply chain was adopted in April 2019, which set out minimum harmonised rules on UTPs for all EU Member States; Directive (EU) 2019/633 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 April 2019 on unfair trading practices in business-to-business relationships in the agricultural and food supply chain (hereafter referred to as the Directive).

The provisions of the Directive were adopted on 28th April 2021 when Charlie McConalogue TD, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine signed the UTP Regulations: Statutory Instrument (SI) No. 198 of 2021 European Union (Unfair Trading Practices in the Agricultural and Food Supply Chain) Regulations 2021.

Yes. The UTP Regulations require that;

(i) all supply agreements entered into since 28th April 2021 were required to be compliant with the UTP Regulations from 1st July 2021, and  

(ii) all supply agreements that were in place before 28th April 2021 when the Minister signed the UTP provisions in law had to be in adherence with the UTP Regulations from 28th April 2022.

Each EU Member State must designate a enforcement authority to enforce UTP rules.

Ireland has established an Enforcement Authority (EA) in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) to enforce the UTP rules.

Responsibility for enforcement of the UTP Directive in Ireland will transfer from DAFMs EA to a new independent statutory Authority to be known as the ‘Office for Fairness and Transparency in the Agri-Food Supply Chain’ after the relevant legislation is approved by the Houses of the Oireachtas and the Act that will establish the new Office is commenced.

Agricultural and food products. This is defined as meaning ‘products listed in Annex I to the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU) as well as products not listed in that Annex but which are processed for use as food using products listed in that Annex’.   

Annex I to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union 

In case of doubt, the EU’s ‘Combined Nomenclature’ gives detailed elaboration of the content of the individual chapters / products listed in Annex I to TFEU. The ‘Combined Nomenclature’ is covered in Council Regulation (EEC) No 2658/87 of 23 July 1987 on the tariff and statistical nomenclature and on the Common Customs Tariff.  

In accordance with Article 12 of that regulation, a revised list of the ‘Combined Nomenclature’ is produced annually to reflect developments in respect of the international ‘Harmonized System Nomenclature’ to which the EU is a signatory. A link to the most recent Combined Nomenclature list is provided below

Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2021/1832 of 12 October 2021 amending Annex I to Council Regulation (EEC) No 2658/87 on the tariff and statistical nomenclature and on the Common Customs Tariff applicable as from 1 January 2022

However, it is important to emphasise that, for the purposes of the UTP Regulations, ‘Agricultural and food products’ are only those that are covered through references to Annex I to TFEU.

The list of Annex I TFEU products is very extensive and can include:

  • Food products directly listed in Annex I, such as tomatoes or apples, cereals, fish or shrimp, ham, milk, cheese.
  • Products processed from Annex I products for use as food, such as chocolate, prepared meals or sauces, processed dairy products, e.g. dairy spreads or yoghurts.

Annex I TFEU also includes non-food products such as live animals, live trees, cut flowers supplied for planting or for ornamental use, animal feed, milling industry products.

The Regulations aims to protect those suppliers which, due to a weak bargaining position relative to the buyer of their product need such protection. ‘Suppliers’ include farmers and their organisations (for example cooperatives, representative and producer groups), nurseries, but also suppliers of agri-food products which are further downstream, including small and medium or certain mid-range enterprises such as manufacturers or distributors, fall within the scope of protection.

The Regulations offers protection along the agri-food supply chain depending on the relative size of operators. It uses a ‘step approach’ based on turnover figures that reflects the different bargaining powers of suppliers and buyers. The step approach protects a supplier from UTPs engaged in by an economically stronger buyer.

For example, a business with a turnover of less than €2 million is offered protection against buyers whose turnover exceeds €2 million while those suppliers with turnover above €2 million but not exceeding €10 million are protected against buyers which have a turnover higher than €10 million.

The various categories of businesses covered by the UTP Regulations are set out below;

  • suppliers which have an annual turnover not exceeding €2m to buyers which have an annual turnover of more than €2m,
  • suppliers which have an annual turnover of between €2m and €10m to buyers which have an annual turnover of more than €10m,
  • suppliers which have an annual turnover of between €10m and €50m to buyers which have an annual turnover of more than €50m,
  • suppliers which have an annual turnover of between €50m and €150m to buyers which have an annual turnover of more than €150m,
  • suppliers which have an annual turnover of between €150m and €350m to buyers which have an annual turnover of more than €350m, and
  • suppliers which have an annual turnover not exceeding €350m to all buyers which are public authorities.

The Regulations do not provide for arrangements between suppliers and consumers.

The protective effect covers suppliers having turnovers of up to €350 million.

The annual turnover is determined by calculating the income that an enterprise received during the year in question from the sale of products and provision of services falling within the company’s ordinary activities, after deducting any rebates. Turnover should not include value added tax (VAT) or other indirect taxes.

Turnover is determined on an annual basis from the latest approved accounting period and can be taken into account from the date of closure of the accounts.

When determining the annual turnover, it is irrelevant whether a business only generates turnover with agricultural or food products or whether these products only make up a small part of the turnover. It is the total turnover in the annual financial statements that counts.

In the case of an autonomous business, the turnover is determined exclusively on the basis of the accounts of that enterprise. The turnover of an enterprise having partner enterprises or linked enterprises are determined on the basis of the accounts and other data of the enterprise or, where they exist, the consolidated accounts of the enterprise, or the consolidated accounts in which the enterprise is included through consolidation. Further clarifications on these points are explained on p=15 of the EU revised user guide to the SME definition (2020)

According to the definition in section 2 of the UTP Regulations (and Article 2 (5) of the Directive), perishable agricultural and food products means ‘agricultural and food products that, by their nature or at their stage of processing, are liable to become unfit for sale within 30 days after harvest, production or processing.’

 

The following text from Recital 17 of the Directive also deals with perishability considerations where it states: ‘A product should be considered perishable if it can be expected to become unfit for sale within 30 days from the last act of harvesting, production or processing by the supplier, regardless of whether the product is further processed after sale, and regardless of whether the product is handled after sale in accordance with other rules, in particular food safety rules. Perishable products are normally used or sold quickly.’

 

The definition in the Regulations (which includes definitions from the Directive) does not contain any reference to the ‘handling’ of a product but refers to the ‘nature or stage of processing’ of the product. For that reason, any subsequent handling, e.g., cold storage, is not to be taken into account for products in their natural state or for products which have not been subject to an act of processing that changed their natural state, when determining whether a certain product is to be considered perishable. This, however, also means that prior to the sale of a product to a buyer, if the product has been subject to any act of processing that changes the nature of the product (e.g. freezing) as a result of which it must be handled in a certain way in order to be able to remain fit for sale (e.g. maintained as frozen), then a continuation of this handling by the buyer can be taken into account when considering whether it falls within the perishable agricultural and food product definition.

 

The clarification in Recital 17 of the Directive also means that a product should be regarded as perishable, regardless of the individual use which a buyer might envisage for a perishable product. Taking into account the purpose of the intended and individual usage of the product by the buyer will undermine the protection that the Directive and Regulations attempts to give by setting stricter deadlines for payment of perishable products.

Yes, the Regulations are applicable if either the supplier or the buyer is based within Ireland.

Two key factors must be considered to establish correct payment period applicable to suppliers of agricultural and food products under the UTP Regulations. It must be established:

  • If the supply agreement provides for the delivery of goods on a regular basis, and
  • If the product falls within the definition of a ‘perishable agricultural and food product’ (see FAQ#9 for guidance on this).

Buyers and their suppliers should come to a mutually agreed position on whether the traded product falls within the definition of a ‘perishable agricultural and food product’ for the purposes of the UTP Regulations, as this determines whether the product must be paid for within 30 days or 60 days.  The EA would only become involved on receipt of a complaint where there is an unresolved dispute between the parties.  A case-by-case assessment would be necessary should such circumstances arise.

 Supply agreement provides for delivery of goods on a regular basis:

  • For perishable agricultural and food products, a buyer shall not pay a supplier later than 30 days after the end of an agreed delivery period in which deliveries have been made or later than 30 days after the date on which the amount payable for that delivery period is set, whichever of those two dates is the later,
  • For other agricultural and food products, a buyer shall not pay a supplier later than 60 days after the end of an agreed delivery period in which deliveries have been made or later than 60 days after the date on which the amount payable for that delivery period is set, whichever of those two dates is the later,
  • The agreed delivery period shall be not more than one month, and
  • Where the buyer sets the amount payable, the payment period shall start to run from the end of an agreed delivery period in which the deliveries have been made

No provision in supply agreement for delivery of goods on a regular basis:

  • For perishable agricultural and food products, a buyer shall not pay a supplier later than 30 days after the date of delivery or later than 30 days after the date on which the amount payable is set, whichever of those two dates is the later
  • For other agricultural and food products, a buyer shall not pay a supplier later than 60 days after the date of delivery or later than 60 days after the date on which the amount payable is set, whichever of those two dates is the later
  • Where the buyer sets the amount payable, the payment period referred to shall start to run from the date of delivery

 

The only exceptions to the above requirements are if:

  • A buyer and a supplier agree on a value sharing clause within the meaning of Article 172a of Regulation (EU) No 1308/2013 (Common Market Regulation).
  • The buyer makes payment under the framework of the school scheme pursuant to Article 23 of the EU Common Market Regulation.
  • The payment is made by a  public entity providing healthcare in the meaning of point (b) of Article 4(4) of Directive 2011/7/EU (Late Payments Commercial Transactions), or
  • The supply agreement is between a supplier of grapes or must for wine production and their direct buyer (separate specific provisions apply) 

Clarification of the term ‘on a regular basis’:

  • For certain agricultural and food products, delivery occurs on a daily basis or several times during a week or a month. The notion ‘on a regular basis’ is meant to cover these situations in terms of recurring deliveries at certain time intervals, regardless of the quantities.
  • Other intervals (e.g. fortnightly deliveries) are also possible, provided that the period for grouping deliveries together for payment purposes does not exceed one month.
  • It is not necessary that such ‘regular delivery’ patterns occur throughout the entire year, they might also occur only during certain periods of the year.
  • The rationale of this provision is to avoid daily invoicing which would result in excessive administrative burden for the parties.

Clarification of the term ‘delivery period’:

  • This refers to the period set by the parties for the regular deliveries.
  • The UTP Regulations do not impose any restrictions as regards the delivery periods which suppliers and buyers can agree upon.
  • The Regulations only puts a restriction on the length of the payment period. In order to avoid daily invoices in situations of regular deliveries, for instance in the milk sector, the Regulations allows for grouping several deliveries together, but with a maximum limit of one month, the end of which triggers the 30 days period.
  • This means that, in a situation of a five-week delivery period, the 30 days would nonetheless start after the end of a month, also for the deliveries made in the fifth week.

Where the buyer sets the amount payable, the payment period must commence for product delivered on a regular basis from the end of the agreed delivery period in which the deliveries have been made. Where delivery of product does not occur on a regular basis and the buyer sets the amount payable, the payment period must commence from the date of delivery. However, if the supplier ‘sets the amount payable’, the commencement of the payment period can be more flexible.

The payable amount can be set by invoice of the supplier on the basis of the following text from recital 17 of the Directive (2019/633): ‘In accordance with (the Late Payments Commercial Transactions) Directive 2011/7/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council it should also be possible to consider the date on which the amount payable for an agreed delivery period is set, for the purposes of this Directive, as the date of the issuance of the invoice or the date of its receipt by the buyer’.

Example – calculation of payment deadline where price has been agreed between the buyer and supplier before delivery

The ‘end of agreed delivery period’ or ‘delivery date’ is 30th August

  • The buyer sends a statement setting out the amount payable on 11th September → The payment deadline must be calculated from 30th August
  • The supplier invoices the buyer for the amount payable on 11th September → The payment deadline must be calculated from 11th September

Note: In the situation only the supplier can set a date later than delivery timing for the relevant payment period to commence.

The UTP Regulations do not provide for payments in instalments. The Regulations require the payment of the total amount within the stipulated deadline.

However, if the supplier ‘sets the amount payable’, the Regulations do not prevent the supplier when setting the amount payable by way of invoice, to send two invoices covering together the overall sales price at different points in time and thus generate two respective payment periods.

Yes, the important factor in this case is not the wording of the supply agreement, but the actual behaviour of the buyer. Buyers will be found to have acted unfairly even if the content of the supply agreement is fully compliant with UTP rules if, for example, they

i. Fail to make payments owed or do not make them on time,

ii. Acquire, use or disclose trade secrets without the consent of the supplier or

iii. Threaten commercial retaliation against suppliers who exercise their contractual/statutory rights.

If you are a supplier of agricultural or food products and feel you have been the subject of an unfair trading practice, please provide details of your complaint in confidence to the Enforcement Authority [HERE] through our secure online complaint submission Please note the form can be accessed on Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge or Mozilla Firefox web browsers.

We recommend providing unfair trading practices complaint details through our online form, but if you prefer you can contact the Enforcement Authority in confidence via: Email: utp@agriculture.gov.ie

Phone: +353 (0) 1 505 8607

Following receipt of the complaint, the Enforcement Authority will consider the information received and we will be back in touch within a reasonable period of time indicating how we intend to follow up on the complaint.

Yes. We fully understand that some suppliers impacted by UTPs may be anxious about their details being known by their possible non-compliant buyers on whom they are economically dependent. The EA therefore will, if requested, protect the identity and all other information, the disclosure of which, in your opinion, would harm your interests. 

If, in individual cases, the EA come to the conclusion that it would not be possible to complete the investigation of the complaint without disclosing your confidential information, we will inform you of this. You can then decide on the disclosure of your confidential information and how to proceed: if you consent to the disclosure of the information, the process can continue; if you do not agree, it will be discontinued.

The EA will examine your complaint and assess the details submitted to consider if a breach of the UTP rules may have occurred, and if further details are required to fully assess the matter.

If there is sufficient evidence to indicate a potential violation of the UTP rules the EA will initiate an investigation, subject to any request for confidentiality that you may have indicated. The EA will keep you informed about the status as well as the progress and outcome of your complaint.

 

No, you don't have to hire a solicitor. Please note that as an enforcement authority we are not in a position to provide a legal interpretation of the Statutory Instruments under which we operate. Individuals may of course, contact a solicitor to obtain independent legal advice.

When the EA receives a complaint, a person called an “authorised officer” will investigate the complaint. Authorised officers must carry out their investigation within the scope of the powers assigned to them by the Minister as set out in SI 198 of 2021, this also includes powers to enforce breaches.

These powers range from issuing formal compliance notices, to the submission of files for consideration for issuance of criminal proceedings. On conviction in the courts for a breach/breaches of UTP rules, a judge may impose:

  • on summary conviction, a class A fine or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or both, or
  • on conviction on indictment, a fine not exceeding €500,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 years or both

The absence of a written supply agreement is a feature of normal business practice in some sectors, however if you wish you can ask your buyer to confirm the content of an oral supply agreement or an oral framework agreement in writing. If the buyer refuses to confirm verbally concluded delivery agreements in writing, this is a violation of the UTP Regulations, and you should submit a complaint to the EA.

 

The Regulations do not deal with issues of price setting or negotiation; therefore, this issue does not currently fall into the scope of the investigate powers of the EA.

 

No, the ban on UTPs only applies to business-to-business relationships in the agricultural and food supply chain. It does not apply to sales to consumers.

 

Prior to the 2019 UTP Directive coming into force the EU Commission examined this aspect as part of a more detailed analysis and they found no evidence that Member States with stringent UTP Regulations had witnessed stronger inflationary effects concerning consumer food prices than those with less stringent rules or no rules on UTPs – EU Commission Impact Assessment to improve the food supply chain (unfair trading practices) (April 2018)

 

Consumers could benefit from an increase in innovative products from buyers which could be created by suppliers broadening their product range, as the UTP rules should give suppliers more confidence to engage with buyers. Fresh produce suppliers should grow, confident under the protection of the UTP rules to work closely and on longer contracts with retailers.

 

Making a Complaint

If you are a supplier of agricultural or food products and feel you have been the subject of an unfair trading practice, please provide details of your complaint in confidence to the Enforcement Authority [HERE] through our secure online complaint submission form. Please note the form can be accessed on Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge or Mozilla Firefox web browsers.

We recommend providing unfair trading practices complaint details through our online form, but if you prefer you can contact the Enforcement Authority in confidence via:

Following receipt of the complaint, the Enforcement Authority will consider the information received and we will be back in touch within a reasonable period of time indicating how we intend to follow up on the complaint.



Enforcement

Where the Enforcement Authority considers that there are sufficient grounds for acting on a complaint, it will, subject to any request for confidentiality, initiate, conduct and conclude an investigation of the complaint within a reasonable period of time.

The Enforcement Authority may also initiate and conduct investigations on its own initiative.

If, following an investigation, the Enforcement Authority is of the view that the UTP Regulations is not being or has not been complied with, it may issue a compliance notice requiring the buyer to take appropriate action. Failure to comply with a compliance notice is an offence.

A person who commits an offence under these Regulations is liable –

  1. on summary conviction, to a class A fine or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or to both, or
  2. on conviction on indictment, to a fine not exceeding €500,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 years or to both

The Enforcement Policy of the Unfair Trading Practices Enforcement Authority (pdf 4,094Kb)            provides more information on how UTP law is being enforced. 

Video and Survey Findings

In May 2022, the Enforcement Authority hosted a Breakfast Seminar: ‘Ensuring Fair Trading in the Agri-Food Supply Chain’ were speakers and panellists provided important information on the UTP Regulations.  View recording of the seminar proceedings: 

 

 

  

New Office

The General Scheme of a Bill to establish a new independent statutory Authority to be known as the ‘Office for Fairness and Transparency in the Agri-Food Supply Chain’ was approved by Government on 22nd March 2022.

The following link provides detailed information on the General Scheme of the Agricultural and Food Supply Chain Bill 2022 to establish a new Office for Fairness and Transparency in the Agri-Food Supply Chain.

The intention is to repeal the current UTP Regulations and to use the enabling provisions in the Bill to provide for the transfer of responsibility for UTP enforcement functions from the Department to the remit of the new Office. This is expected to occur at the time of commencement of the Act.    

Other Useful links

Legal Text of Ireland’s UTP Regulations: S.I. No. 198/2021 - European Union (Unfair Trading Practices in the agricultural and food supply chain) Regulations 2021 (irishstatutebook.ie)

Legal Text of EU UTP Directive: The Unfair Trading Practices (UTP) Directive (Directive (EU) 2019/633 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 April 2019

The Enforcement Authority has also published its 2021 activity report which is available to download at: Unfair Trading Practices Enforcement Authority Activity Report 2021 (pdf 9,484Kb)     

Contact

The contact details for the Unfair Trading Practices Enforcement Authority are:

Email: utp@agriculture.gov.ie

Phone: +353 (0) 1 5058607