News & Insights

The Retailers vs. the Groceries Code Adjudicator

The Groceries Code Adjudicator, Christine Tacon, spoke to an industry audience at the Westminster Food Forum on 8 March 2017.  

Mrs Tacon confirmed that considerable work is required and breaches of the Code remain commonplace. Amongst other examples, she cited “shocking” tactics such as supermarkets charging customers £25,000 for a table at a charity ball, a supplier being charged £45 following a complaint that a teabag had allegedly been found inside an egg, a refusal to make deductions for goods which were delivered but which the supermarkets claimed had not been (Mrs Tacon confirmed that millions of pounds were being deducted from suppliers under “drop and drive” and that she was launching an investigation into this.)

Mrs Tacon has a considerable struggle on her hands. As the Competition Commission report which created her role sets out, a number of techniques used by supermarkets that are anti-competitive and stifle innovation are longstanding and on the face of it things don’t appear to be changing.

She faces a difficult battle. She is part time, her legal advisor is part time and she only has 3 full time staff. The legal teams alone at the major retailers all dwarf the size of her team. When you then consider the funds available to Mrs Tacon, the problems increase exponentially. She has £800,000 to play with. Tesco, by way of comparison, make that in profits every couple of days.

It is a long road ahead and one which will likely never be won unless the government gives greater power and resources to the GCA. The role of the GCA was set to be reviewed late last year, but then along came Brexit. The times might not be a changing for a while therefore.