Sir: In reference to your article ‘suppliers angry as retailers keep digging for old debts’ (9 August, p5), please add me to your huge list of cynics. Eight of our 10 large retailers have made voluntary commitments to time-limit forensic audits to two and a bit years. The fact that so many are blitzing the accounts to ensure they’ve missed nothing before magnanimously stopping the practice is an outrage.
The spirit of the GCA’s initiative is clear - just stop asking for dated money. The policy should read: ‘No requests to suppliers to pay money dating back beyond two years should be made.’
Going forward things will change. The retailers will become more rigorous at collecting every penny prior to two years elapsing, and better at delaying supplier payments beyond two years, to then falling back on their ‘reciprocal’ agreement. Reciprocal, ha! Have you ever met a supplier who went back to a retail customer to make a claim for underpayment of promotion funding from three years ago?
Retailers have retained the legal right to go back up to six years. Sainsbury’s and Waitrose have not signed up because the GCA’s voluntary agreement was too weak to hold any real sway over retailers, which is exactly why some of the others agreed it.
Six years ‘legally’ or two years ‘voluntarily,’ does it matter? Surely the important thing is the manner and the spirit in which these audits and claims are carried out. It’s easy: just stop it.
David Sables, CEO, Sentinel Management Consultants