It said there were “considerable challenges” facing retailers and suppliers as they worked together to ensure customers had access to food and other essentials during the COVID-19 outbreak.
The GCA said it was aware of co-ordinated work across Government to respond to the situation and said it had no intention of interfering with that.
But it has offered some guiding principles to assist retailers and suppliers to deliver continuity of supply to consumers, “as far as this” remained possible given significant pressures on staffing and some customer buying habits.
It said that nothing in the Groceries Supply Code of Practice (the Code) required any regulated retailer to break any other legal requirement. It advised that the Code should be read compatibly with all other legal obligations placed on regulated retailers.
The GCA said it could not offer a view as to whether current circumstances amount to “force majeure”.
Retailers, it said, would want to agree a way with suppliers to meet the most pressing objectives of the situation as it developed.
The GCA said it “would expect all parties to work together constructively to achieve this”.
Examples included effective communication on both sides, and an appreciation that, for example, reasonable notice provisions in the Code would need to be considered in light of the rapidly changing situation.
It recognised that notice periods might need to be short to address challenges at the earliest possible opportunity, but added that suppliers should not wait to raise issues with retailers.
GCA adjudicator Christine Tacon is to step down from her role at the end of the current term in June 2020.