Just months after reaching a “breakthrough” with the Groceries Code Adjudicator on limiting forensic audits of supplier accounts, The Grocer can reveal some retailers are still digging further back than the agreed two-year limit.
In June, adjudicator Christine Tacon said she was delighted by the voluntary commitments made by Aldi, Asda, The Co-operative Group, Lidl, Iceland, M&S, Tesco and Morrisons to restrict audits to the current and two previous financial years. She said the practice of retailers searching for money that might be owed to them going back as far as six years had generated the most supplier complaints during her first year in office.
Tacon has asked those retailers who have agreed to limit the trawls to provide her with a detailed plan at her quarterly review next month. In the meantime, however, some are continuing to ask for money going back up to four years, and have made demands as recently as late July.
One supplier approached The Grocer this week having received a demand for payment from The Co-op based on promotional activity in 2010. The demand was for thousands of pounds, with the society explaining it did not spot the debt at the time as it had been late integrating data from Somerfield’s tills into The Co-op’s system, adding this was the case for a number of its suppliers.
The supplier said this undermined the GCA agreement. “Call me a cynic if you like, but it would seem to me that this then becomes a meaningless gesture,” he said.
However, a Co-op spokesman said: “To successfully implement this commitment, the establishment of a robust and fair framework, developed in partnership with our suppliers, is essential. We don’t feel it would be appropriate to implement the initiative until this is agreed, and as such we have not yet confirmed the start date of when this new policy will be introduced, but we are committed to moving forward at pace. We plan to share our progress to date with the adjudicator at the quarterly review.”
Other retailers are also still conducting forensic audits going back more than two years, with Tacon this week saying her office was still receiving complaints from suppliers about such audits.
Aldi, Lidl and M&S said they had already implemented a framework and were not currently auditing beyond the current and previous two years. Tesco, Asda and Morrisons said they were still drawing up policies and would share these with suppliers shortly. Iceland was not available for comment.