Christine Tacon

The Groceries Code Adjudicator is set to widen her sights from supermarkets to the likes of Boots, B&M, Compass, Poundland, Holland & Barrett, McColls and Ocado, amid fears that multiple retail superpowers and emerging players are taking advantage of the lack of a level playing field.

The Competition & Markets Authority will look at bringing them under the jurisdiction of the GCA for the first time, alongside the top 10 supermarkets.

Sources and sources also suggest the review will also look at whether Amazon will eventually be covered by the Code as its influence in the market grows along with the rise of internet shopping.

In a statement, business minister Andrew Griffiths and Defra minister George Eustice last week ruled out extending the powers of the Adjudicator to cover indirect suppliers, instead unveiling a package of measures to help farmers in the supply chain.

However, as predicted by The Grocer in 2016, the government said the role of the Adjudicator would be re-assessed to take in new players not currently covered by the Code.

“A number of respondents raised concerns that existing retailers or new market entrants may either currently or in the near future have an annual turnover of more than £1bn with respect to the retail supply of groceries in the UK and should therefore be formally designated as ‘large retailers’ under the Code,” said the decision, which followed a call for evidence launched in October 2016.

“The CMA has agreed to formalise its current activities, by reviewing publicly available information on an annual basis. Where there are reasonable grounds for suspecting that any additional retailer may have reached the turnover threshold specified in the order, the CMA will request further evidence from it,” it added.

The CMA is now reviewing public information about retailers who may be close to the “turnover threshold” and is considering sending requests for evidence from them, ahead of adding them to the list.

Booker is already in line to be brought under the CMA’s remit, if its merger with Tesco gets the go-ahead, but others could soon follow under the latest plans.

The announcement was welcomed by John Noble, director of the British Brands Group, who said it would help ensure all large retailers dealt fairly with suppliers.

“GSCOP has proved effective in ensuring fair dealing in the grocery market and much of the credit goes to the Adjudicator,” he said. “The announcement means she can continue to focus on what she does best, making sure GSCOP works effectively for suppliers and ultimately for shoppers.”

Reacting to the decision, Tacon said: “I welcome the government’s publication of its response to the call for evidence. I look forward to hearing from the CMA about the process for designating any new large retailers and I encourage suppliers to take part in that process because the outcome will benefit them.

“As a result, more groceries retailers may find themselves regulated in the near future and I would urge them to think about what action they need to take to ensure they become Code-compliant.”