christine tacon

Groceries Code Adjudicator Christine Tacon is considering new measures to protect suppliers who come forward to report breaches of the code by supermarkets.

The Adjudicator is set to launch her third major survey of suppliers next week and will prioritise the large group of companies that have previously said they would never speak out to her due to the threat of repercussions.

A survey last year found 18% of supplier directors would not even consider coming forward, with 70% of those driven by the climate of fear.

Tacon said a new line of questioning in this year’s survey would ask suppliers to come up with ways in which the Adjudicator could make them feel safer to come forward, which could include firming up her duty to confidentiality.

“What would encourage you to raise any issues you have with groceries supply with the GCA?” says the survey, to be posted on the GCA website on Monday.

“I was hoping the Tesco investigation would encourage suppliers to come forward by demonstrating how I can use information without revealing their identity at all,” she said. “But there is still a myth among suppliers that if they come forward they will be identified because what is happening is unique to them. Generally if a retailer is making unreasonably demand from a supplier it’s because they are doing it across the board.”

The survey will also ask to what extent suppliers already assume Tacon is aware that breaches are going on.

“I think there is an assumption I already know what’s happening yet there are still times when the first that I know about something happening is when I read it in The Grocer,” Tacon said.

The adjudicator has been touring the UK to talk to suppliers about the Tesco findings, visiting Wales last week and with trips to Scotland and Northern Ireland lined up in the weeks to come.

Despite nearly 1,000 direct suppliers completing the survey last year, she said she hoped more would come forward this time, with the survey open until the end of April.

“The survey is the most important thing I can do. On my trip to Wales I asked how many of the suppliers in the room had responded to last year’s survey and not a single hand went up,” she added.