Understanding The Groceries Code and the approach taken by the adjudicator, can help food suppliers level the playing field when dealing with large supermarkets. At her annual conference, Christine Tacon (the Groceries Code Adjudicator) identified the most common breaches of the code and the key issues food suppliers have raised with her.
Food suppliers are encouraged to report breaches of the Groceries Code to the adjudicator, which can be made on a confidential basis. By collating the complaints the adjudicator is able to identify common trends in the industry and tackle significant issues with the relevant supermarkets. In her annual report, the adjudicator highlighted three key issues, which she would be paying particular attention to:
- Delays in Payment, with 23% of the food suppliers stating that invoice discrepancies were not resolved promptly.
- Forecasting, with over 20% of food suppliers stating that they had incurred significant costs as a result of issues with supermarket forecasting.
- Promotions, with 13% of suppliers still reporting issues in relation to supermarkets promotional activities.
By reporting breaches of the code, the adjudicator can monitor the behaviour of the designated retailers and any recurring themes can be raised with them directly on an anonymous basis. The adjudicator was pleased to report the improvements she has made in recent years, but with 43% of food suppliers reporting at least one breach of the code in the last 12 months there is still some work to do.
Despite having powers to adjudicate over breaches of the code, the adjudicator advocates trying to resolve disputes through dialogue with the designated retailers. In particular, if there are issues with a particular buyer, the supplier has the power to raise a complaint with the supermarket’s code compliance officer, who is independent from the buying team and has a duty to monitor the supermarket’s code compliance.
It is important that all food suppliers who deal with any of the large supermarkets have an understanding the code, so they understand their legal rights and can report any breaches to the adjudicator, who can take action on their behalf. For more information on The Groceries Code see here or here.