Beth Phillips says the Co-op Group's dark side came to light this week, when it asked suppliers for backdated trading terms

The Co-operative Group. A cute and cuddly reputation, famed for its tireless work on Fairtrade and ethics. And a society that was pushing its environmental credentials long before Sir Stuart Rose dreamed up Marks & Spencer's Plan A.

But the dark side of this grocery darling came to light this week. As The Grocer reveals on page 6, The Co-op Group is asking suppliers for backdated trading terms to coincide with its March acquisition of Somerfield.

It's no surprise the request raised more than a few eyebrows among the supplier community. Retrospective terms and conditions are set to be outlawed by the Competition Commission within the next few months, after its groceries inquiry concluded the practice was an abuse of power.

So is this a sign of things to come for a rejuvenated society eager to cement itself as the fifth-largest grocery player? CEO Peter Marks made it clear when he secured Somerfield that the deal would give The Co-op Group more buying clout and customers would get better deals. More muscle-flexing now looks certain.

More on page 6