Grocery Supply Code of Practice adjudicator ready to speak softly and wield big stick

The appointment of an adjudicator to police the Grocery Supply Code of Practice "is our big chance to sort things out", Christine Tacon told Fruit Focus attendees.

Christine Tacon: Grocery Supply Code of Practice adjudicator
Christine Tacon: Grocery Supply Code of Practice adjudicator

Tacon, who formally took up the adjudicator role at the end of June, urged fresh produce suppliers: "I can only do my job if the industry tells me what's going on. I need to know who you are and what the basis of your complaint is, though your anonymity will be protected."

She added: "I don't take action on behalf of one supplier against one retailer. But I can if you're the 10th supplier that I hear making the same complaint."

Tacon said the main breaches of the code by retailers that she expects to have to deal with are:

- Failing to pay suppliers in full and on time.

- Requiring suppliers to predominantly bear the cost of promotions.

- Making unreasonable charges to suppliers for consumer complaints.

Annual negotiations "may get nastier as the retailers realise that they have to get them right first time", she added, and pointed out: "My job is to oversee the code, and it doesn't say anything about prices."

Tacon continued: "I don't expect to receive 100 letters a day - my main job in the first year will be getting the message out about what it is I'm here for.

"I have a tiny office and can undertake maybe two or three investigations a year, so I want these cases to be worthwhile."

The act requires the big 10 supermarkets to appoint code compliance officers who are responsible for resolving suppliers' complaints within 21 days.

"If not, it goes to me, and I can issue fines that are a percentage of turnover," Tacon explained. "For all 10 that figure is over £1bn, so fines could be large."

But she added: "I may potentially be in court a lot (defending such fines) but it's better to make those practices disappear."


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