The Grocer – 14th April 2020
Tacon has urged retailers to use the flexibility within the code.
- Groceries Code Adjudicator Christine Tacon has asked retailers to withdraw their requests for elements of the code to be suspended.
- Last month Morrisons CEO David Potts asked the government to allow the delisting of products without giving suppliers reasonable notice”.
- Tacon reassured suppliers that complaints about delists during the period would be investigated.
Groceries Code Adjudicator Christine Tacon has written to supermarket CEOs urging them to withdraw calls for elements of GSCOP to be suspended during the coronavirus crisis.
Tacon’s intervention came after it emerged several retailers had raised concerns with Defra and the CMA about remaining compliant with the code because of the current unprecedented trading conditions.
Last month Morrisons CEO David Potts called on the government to allow it to delist products without the need to give suppliers “reasonable notice”. He said supermarkets were in effect on a “war footing” and asked for “regulations that work perfectly well in peacetime to be changed”.
Tacon said she understood other retailers had also raised concerns about the code. However, her letter urges supermarket CEOs to use the flexibility within the code, rather than seek for elements of it to be suspended. And she sought to reassure suppliers that complaints about delists during the period would be investigated, once it was over.
“I am writing to you because I understand that in their discussions with Defra and the CMA, some retailers have raised concerns about compliance with the Groceries Supply Code of Practice during the current trading conditions,” her letter says.
“I want to reassure you, as no doubt your code compliance officers are also doing, that there is considerable flexibility already in the code, particularly as to what constitutes reasonable notice of de-listing or variation of supply agreements.”
“I have always resisted giving any figure in relation to notice periods and have instead issued guidance setting out the factors retailers should consider when determining what is reasonable in the circumstances of any particular supply relationship.”
“What is reasonable is always to be determined on a case-by-case basis bearing in mind all relevant factors.”
The Adjudicator said she believed co-operation between retailers and suppliers that had been taking place so far demonstrated they could work together, within GSCOP, during the outbreak.
“Over these initial few weeks, for the vast majority of suppliers, their interests have been aligned with those of retailers to get the groceries that consumers want onto the shelves.”
“I was pleased to hear from all CCOs that there has been extremely close working between retailers and suppliers and a considerable increase in communication. This has been echoed by suppliers who I have spoken to. One described co-operation with the retailers as excellent and said that ‘GSCOP isn’t on the agenda’,” the letter adds.
GSCOP expert Ged Futter, founder of The Retail Mind, said he thought most retailers were being proactive and collaborating with suppliers. He said: “I can’t understand why companies need to go to Defra or the CMA.”
“GSCOP is not there to be a barrier. It’s a framework with which people can work. At times like this the most important thing is collaboration and that is what the code wants. Any retailer that thinks it’s there to slow this down is not understanding the code. Likewise, suppliers should realise that they can still raise issues under GSCOP. Some products have been delisted but now is the time to park those complaints so they can be dealt with while this is over.”