GCA Christine Tacon

Christine Tacon

Supermarkets embroiled in a row over drop & drive charges have written to Adjudicator Christine Tacon setting out plans to respond.

The Grocer can reveal that Asda, The Co-op and Morrisons were the three previously unnamed retailers set a deadline of the end of July by the Adjudicator, after she warned they were “drinking at the last chance saloon”, and threatened to launch her first investigation since the Tesco probe.

Her intervention came after information supplied by a group of 20 leading chilled food suppliers last year claimed they were being deducted £15m between them a year by supermarkets for alleged drop & drive discrepancies.

Morrisons said this week it was “listening and responding” to the GCA’s concerns and, following on from plans revealed by The Grocer in February, was now rolling out a new Good Faith Receiving process.

Under GFR supermarkets agree to pay suppliers for all deliveries, and rather than have the power to question any load, use spot check audits instead. Only if they find discrepancies are suppliers fined.

A Morrisons spokesman said: “The Adjudicator has certainly said these systems can have positive outcomes. Suppliers benefit from a reduction in the number of invoice queries and improved vehicle turnaround times. Early feedback has been positive.”

Asda is said to be in advanced trials of a similar system, whilst The Co-op is also set to launch trials of GFR.Co-op commercial director Michael Fletcher said: “We take very seriously both our responsibility to treat suppliers fairly and lawfully, alongside our commitment to comply with GSCOP. We are proactive in speaking with our thousands of suppliers to ensure compliance to these responsibilities is on track.”

A GCA spokeswoman said: “The retailers have written to the adjudicator explaining the systems and processes that they are putting in place to deal with the issue of delay in payments arising from the practice of drop & drive. The GCA is currently considering those responses and will reply to the specific retailers in due course. In the meantime she is keen to hear from suppliers about their experiences in this area”

Despite the breakthrough with the retailers, The Grocer understands supermarkets have struggled to sign up suppliers to their fledgling GFR schemes.

Jonathan Kittow, a consultant for Simply Supply Chain, which has been involved in the talks, said: “Supplier uptake of the new GFR programmes and the new electronic POD remain disappointingly low - I suspect many mistakenly think there is some sort of sting in the tail.

“In reality it would benefit suppliers if they engage and we need to reduce the ignorance, scepticism and internally-perceived barriers to entry to allow them to take advantage of the new programmes emerging.”