Groceries Code Adjudicator Christine Tacon has accused trade organisations of doing too little to help suppliers present evidence about alleged breaches of the code by retailers.
Tacon, who announced her first investigation this month, is calling on suppliers to demand more from the bodies that represent them, with companies having six weeks to come forward with information in her Tesco probe. She said she had received some “sensitive information” from suppliers but hoped to be “inundated” by the April cut-off.
Trade associations needed to be more active in shielding suppliers, she said. “I would urge suppliers to demand more from their organisations and get them to step up to the plate,” she said. “A trade association will do what their suppliers tell them.” She added some trade bodies that had a foot in both retail and supply camps had mistakenly told her they could not intervene on competition grounds. “I even came across one training scheme in ‘negotiations’ which didn’t even cover the code at all. Incredible,” she added.
Tacon singled out the British Brands Group as playing a leading role in backing suppliers on the code. “It has been providing training, much of it for suppliers who are not even its members.” Associations could provide suppliers with “safety in numbers” and make it easier for her to protect their identity, she added.
Tacon also explained her threat to force suppliers to give evidence against Tesco would be a last resort, and stressed she had a duty to protect their anonymity. “There have been a number of times when I have not felt able to disclose anything to a retailer because I was worried about the possibility of protecting suppliers’ anonymity,” she said. “I make a point of not revealing even which sector it involves sometimes.”
Tacon said much of the reaction since she announced her Tesco investigation had been limited to “social media type stuff” rather than hard evidence. British Brands Group director John Noble said trade organisations had a duty to “insulate suppliers from a climate of fear.”