The Supermarkets Code of Practice came under attack this week - just as the Competition Commission began the mammoth task of sifting through millions of emails following allegations that two supermarkets use retrospective discounts in a "threatening" and "aggressive" manner against suppliers. Ferndale Foods - the ready meals supplier delisted by Asda in 2005, allegedly with less than 90 days notice - said more than two years after it had first lodged a complaint about its treatment at the hands of the retailer, the Office of Fair Trading had still not ruled on its case. With the matter in limbo, Ferndale has now instructed its solicitors, Edwin Coe, to write to the Competition Commission's groceries inquiry to highlight the ineffectiveness of the code in resolving such cases. "Ferndale Foods' big gripe is that two years after making the complaint, the case is still nowhere near conclusion," said Edwin Coe solicitor Henriette Jensen. "The whole point of the Code is that cases should be dealt with quickly to enable the supplier to get back to trading quickly or move on and reposition the business. Two years on we still do not have a result, and the damage is done." The OFT originally dismissed Ferndale's complaint, made in summer 2005, that Asda had failed to give the manufacturer the minimum 90 days' notice prescribed by the Code of Practice before axing its contract to supply ready meals, because it could not be proved the Code had been breached. There was no written contract and therefore "no grounds for saying the terms were varied", said the OFT, which regulates the code. After more than a year of legal arguments, the OFT finally agreed to look again at the case last January after Ferndale threatened to seek a judicial review of the case. There have been 17 complaints to the OFT about the big four's actions since the code was set up in 2002. But none has resulted in an adverse finding. Four complaints related to unreasonable notice of delisting, three to third party suppliers and five to retailer demands for lump sum payments. The OFT declined to comment. Meanwhile, the Competition Commission began talks with Tesco and Asda this week to draw up a list of specific suppliers in a bid to find evidence of unreasonable demands for retrospective discounts. It emerged last weekend that, following a tip-off from a supplier, the Commission issued section 109 notices to the two supermarket chains demanding they hand over all emails between staff and suppliers during a five-week period in the run-up to this summer's £520m price war. Chief executive Andy Bond told the FT on Thursday he was confident Asda had nothing to hide. "The Commission is looking for evidence to see if we have used our power inappropriately," he said. "There is no systematic thing in Asda that I have to worry about with suppliers." In spite of the huge task it faced, the Commission insisted it was still on course to meet its self-imposed deadline to publish its provisional findings of the groceries inquiry by the end of September. Analysis p24Fiona McLelland