Supermarket abuse needs more action

By Rick Pendrous

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Groceries code adjudicator Supermarket Retailing

Is the adjudicator Christine Tacon doing enough to stop supermarkets abusing their power? Take part in our survey to find out
Is the adjudicator Christine Tacon doing enough to stop supermarkets abusing their power? Take part in our survey to find out
Suppliers remain unconvinced that the Groceries Code Adjudicator (GCA) Christine Tacon is doing enough to stop the big supermarkets abusing their power.

Just 21% of 522 respondents to Food Manufacture’s​ state-of-the-industry survey felt Tacon was being effective in policing the supply chain as part of the 2010 Groceries Supply Code of Practice (GSCOP).

This finding comes despite news that Tacon had been successful in getting agreement from eight out of the 10 supermarkets that are subject to the GSCOP to alter their practices on so-called ‘forensic investigations’, first reported by Food Manufacture in February this year.

Under the deal agreed by Tacon, announced on the anniversary of her appointment as GCA, eight supermarkets will cut the period they backdated demands for money following forensic investigations of their suppliers from six years to two. Those signing up to the voluntary agreement are Tesco, Asda, Morrisons, Aldi and Lidl, plus the Co-op, Iceland and Marks & Spencer.

‘Biggest complaint’

“The biggest complaint I get of all is what I call forensics,”​ said Tacon back in February. “This is when retailers are using no-win, no-fee third parties to go through the books up to six years previously and find evidence of promotions or sampling campaigns or some other reason why the supplier owes the retailer some money.”

The continuing abuse of power by big retailers – particularly as price wars between them encourage them to pass back costs to their suppliers – was highlighted by the large number of complaints from respondents to this year’s Food Manufacture survey.

“Most retailers are still approaching any negotiations in a ‘price down for quality up and don’t care if you go out of business’ manner,” ​said one respondent. “The corrupt practices hidden under the carpet in the UK retail market beggar belief – give us a whistle-blower protection scheme and there’ll be a herd of witnesses available!”


However, the British Retail Consortium (BRC), which had argued against the need for a GCA, said it was pleased to see that the first year of Tacon’s work had not exposed major failings. It argued that this supported its belief that supply chains were more collaborative than had been suggested and that the GSCOP was working well.

Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability for the BRC, said: “Good supply relationships make good business sense, as without that no retailer can meet the very exacting demands of British consumers.”

A survey carried out by the Groceries Code Adjudicator Christine Tacon after her first year in office found that supermarket suppliers were very unhappy about shifting supply chain terms. 

Read the full results of the Food Manufacture​ survey here​.

Meanwhile, please take part in our survey to discover whether food and drink industry professionals think Tacon is doing a good job.


Is Christine Tacon doing enough to stop the big supermarkets abusing their power?

  • Yes: Tacon is doing all she can, using the limited powers at her disposal

  • No: Tacon and her team should be much more active at investigating alleged abuses

  • Perhaps: But the real problem is the lack of safeguards for suppliers that offer evidence of supermarket abuse

  • Don't know


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