Grocery suppliers say the supermarket code of practice has failed to change behaviour in the major chains.
In our latest reader survey, we polled leading executives across the supplier community and the majority believed buyers continued to use their power to get the best possible deals from manufacturers although they had now been trained to work in ways that did not break the letter of the code.
"The code is worthless if only because it seeks to regulate behaviour that is normal between buyers and sellers in a competitive market," said one supplier.
"We are all seeking advantage against our competitors and it is in the arena between a buyer's demands and a seller's concessions (or vice-versa) that negotiation takes place. Indeed I know of one supplier who was happy to go along with a demand that broke the code of practice because it gave him a competitive advantage."
Another supplier told us: "None of the suspect' requests from buyers are put in writing and no-one except Express has challenged them in the open. So why should their behaviour change? Perversely, given the increased publicity, the bad behaviour is spreading to non-retail areas."
Most of those we questioned thought the code, while deeply flawed, could be improved and they rejected the idea that it should be abandoned altogether.
"It's better than nothing," said one supplier.
But another struggled to understand why anybody would use the code. "No one is going to break cover and complain," he said. "We have too much business at stake. It is better to negotiate robustly."
Suppliers taking part in the survey identified a number of improvements that could be made to the code, but the one most highlighted was the need to produce a clearer definition of what constituted reasonable' behaviour.
An overwhelming majority of suppliers supported the idea of the code being extended to include other buyers particularly in foodservice.
But they were less keen on the idea of a supermarket regulator or ombudsman being unleashed upon the industry.