And many who backed the OFT questioned the code’s viability and believed there was scope to break the rules.
The majority of buyers knew that their reputation among suppliers was bad, and only 20% thought that reputation was undeserved. Bullying, such as unreasonable financial demands to improve a multiple’s bottom line, charges for short deliveries and threatening to delist lines unless demands were met also occurred according to 40% of the buyers quizzed.
One buyer said: “I am sure there are still some buyers who do not follow the code.”
Another, who claimed that his company had gone over and above the call of duty to ensure all buyers complied with the code, said: “I have heard of buyers in other retailers working close to the limits of acceptability.”
Most buyers who agreed with the OFT’s decision were from the top four. All who disagreed were from outside the big four.
However, a buyer at one of the big four multiples admitted: “Whether the code of practice is doing what it is designed to do is another matter.”
One buyer said suppliers had told him of instances where the code had been broken, but they could not go to the OFT for fear of reprisals. Another commented: “I believe that it is possible for either the buyer or supplier to misbehave within the code.”