Supermarkets not guilty of misconduct, says watchdog

OFT says Code of Practice should remain the same, despite supplier concerns of bullying tactics

The Supermarkets’ Code of Practice should remain unchanged, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) claims, despite horticultural bodies’ concerns over bullying of suppliers. An OFT report published last week says suppliers have provided insufficient evidence to show the code was not working. It suggests they should “overcome the fear of complaining and use the code’s dispute resolution procedure when they have concerns about their dealings with supermarkets”. Garden Industry Manufacturers’ Association director Peter Marsh said: “The OFT is not recognising the fact that suppliers are afraid to raise their concerns with retailers. “We want an independent observer to look at supplier concerns, rather than for them to complain. They are terrified that if they do, the supermarkets will drop them.” NFU president Peter Kendall said: “A climate of fear exists and the OFT’s conclusions have by no means given supplier-retailer relationships a clean bill of health.” The Forum of Private Business said the OFT should crackdown on “bully boy supermarkets”. But HTA director general David Gwyther said: “To expect the result of the review to be any different would be to misunderstand the OFT’s brief, which is to act in the interests of the consumer, not the supplier.” He said suppliers should either cut costs or prices, or withdraw supply. British Retail Consortium director Kevin Hawkins said: “Supermarkets are observing the code but suppliers are not making use of it.”

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