MADRID – Prominent consumer association FACUA has shed light on covert agreements between the Spanish supermarket giant, Mercadona, and six consumer organisations. Furthermore, these secretive dealings comprise 28 payments, each reaching up to €20,933. However, both Mercadona and the implicated organisations have declined to provide further details.
The organisations involved in receiving these payments include the major consumer organisation, OCU, and five others. The highest paid of these groups reportedly received a whopping €119,000. Since 2006, Spanish legislation permits consumer organisations to accept funds from corporations, given that certain conditions are met. However, prior to an amendment passed in December of the same year, such payments from companies to user associations were entirely forbidden.
FACUA has subsequently called on the Department of Consumer Affairs to disclose a list of agreements made between business entities and their registered organisations.
A payment of €20,000 to the OCU
In November 2020, the OCU hosted the Euroconsumers International Forum. After remitting €20,000 to the OCU, Mercadona’s Corporate Social Responsibility Manager, Adela Torres, was able to participate. This payment was stipulated in an agreement inked with the supermarket chain a month prior.
FACUA proposes prohibition of such payments
FACUA has requested the Department of Consumer Affairs to revise the law. The want the ban on private company payments to consumer associations reinstated. The current legal framework mandates that consumer and user associations must operate independently of economic operators and public authorities to fulfil their objectives.
Mercadona’s ingenious media strategy
FACUA did not disclose whether it has established how or what Mercadona’s funds were utilised for by the recipient organisations. However, the purpose of these payments seems obvious, considering the relentless positive coverage the company enjoys in Spanish media.
The media strategy in play is crystal clear. Through subtle product advertising, Mercadona is continuously represented in a positive light in the media. The Spanish public is regularly greeted with glowing reports about the launch of new products or the positive societal impacts of the company’s economic activities. This year, Merco ranked the supermarket as the company with the best reputation in Spain.
Therefore, finding critical news about Mercadona seems virtually impossible. This is similar to the situation with other large national companies such as El Corte Inglés. The absence of critical media scrutiny, coupled with a powerful nationwide presence and continuous positive self-presentation, guarantees an unwavering positive image and a secure, large market share for Mercadona.
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