I agree with BRC director-general Kevin Hawkins that, as things stand, unless the Competition Commission can come up with a workable idea to reduce the supply chain fear factor, suppliers may not come forward with complaints about trading practices ('Suppliers hobbled by the fear factor', The Grocer, 15 December, p35). However, it is not really so difficult to make effective change to the status quo to overcome this as I would expect any regulator or ombudsman to specifically define what constitutes "reasonable" trade terms as between food suppliers and supermarkets. The term "reasonable", littered throughout the Supermarkets Code of Practice, is so undefined as to be unenforceable. Specific definition of non-price terms would give greater business certainty - such as the maximum payment term being expressed in days of credit, and the prohibition of unilateral post-supply demands for supplier contributions and supplier delisting notice periods being proportionate to the length of the trading relationship. I would also expect a regulator or ombudsman regularly to sample and assess the health of supplier/supermarket trading relationships in selected food categories. Proactive sampling removes the fear factor - it would be undertaken at the regulator's behest and possibly driven by market feedback. In this process both suppliers and supermarkets would be compelled to disclose the basis of their trading relationships and both sides would have the opportunity to put their case where any issues were identified.