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30th June 2017 Press Coverage: CCH Daily.

People in the news.

Consumer Minister Margot James has announced the reappointment of Christine Tacon CBE as the Groceries Code Adjudicator (GCA). Having held the role since its launch, Tacon has overseen significant progress in compliance with the Groceries Code. In 2015 she investigated alleged Code breaches by Tesco, which resulted in the supermarket adopting fairer payment practices and improved transparency in all its dealings with suppliers.

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26th June 2017 Press Coverage: The Guardian.

Asda is named worst supermarket in treatment of suppliers.

Asda has been named as the worst of the UK’s major supermarkets in its treatment of suppliers. It dropped below Morrisons, which was bottom of the list last year, as the Bradford-based chain took action to improve its performance according to a survey of more than 1,200 grocery suppliers by the industry watchdog.

About 12% of Asda’s suppliers said the Walmart-owned chain rarely or never complied with the Grocery Supply Code of Practice, which covers dealings by 10 retailers that sell over £1bn of groceries a year.

A spokesperson for Asda said: “We’ve listened to the GCA and worked to improve our ways of working with suppliers to ensure we’re doing our job in the best way we can. This includes ensuring our smaller suppliers are paid within 14 days, simplifying our processes, and eliminating some of our supplier charges and audits. We will also be introducing further changes, including the expansion of a dedicated helpdesk to ensure our suppliers have a single point of contact to raise any concerns.”

Christine Tacon, the grocery code adjudicator who enforces the rules and has the power to fine retailers, said that she was generally pleased with progress since she came into office four years ago. She said more suppliers were getting involved as they found that she was able to bring about real change in the grocery market.

Overall, the proportion of suppliers who said they had a problem with breaches of the code fell to 56% from 62% last year. Incorrect deductions from invoices remain the top problem, affecting 32% of suppliers, followed by data input errors not being resolved promptly then unfair charges for packaging artwork.

She said she had not received any specific complaints about Iceland breaching the code, but suppliers felt “in a constant state of jeopardy” in their dealings with the discounter. They feared that their products would be removed from its shelves if they took a wrong step.

Iceland said it had the best score of all the retailers in terms of specific issues raised by suppliers despite its low ranking on overall compliance. A spokesman said: “We have worked hard to improve our compliance to achieve this, and feel sure that this will be acknowledged by our suppliers.”

The survey found that Aldi offered the best compliance with the code of practice for the fourth year in a row, followed by Sainsbury’s.

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26th June 2017 Press Coverage: Horticulture Week.

Unfair packaging charges reduced says adjudicator, but payment delays still troubling.

Groceries Code Adjudicator (GCA) Christine Tacon says the latest polling data from supermarket suppliers “demonstrate major progress across key issues” during her four years in the role. But she says payment delays remain a major issue.

The latest YouGov survey, carried out each year to coincide with the GCA’s annual conference, shows for the fourth year running that fewer of direct suppliers (down from 62% last year to 56%) said they had experienced one or more breaches of the Groceries Supply Code of Practice (GSCoP), which the GCA polices.

Tacon said: “The overall fall is welcome, but the more dramatic data comes from looking at supplier experience of issues that I have identified among my Top Five, and where I have used collaborative or more formal regulatory action to drive change.”

The figures show a fall in suppliers experiencing:

  • “forensic auditing”  – from 45% in 2014, to 12% in 2017;
  • “margin maintenance” requests, from 36% in 2014 to 10%;
  • unjustified charges for consumer complaints, down from 37% to 12%;
  • unfair packaging and design charges, down from 24% to 11%;

Tacon added: “Suppliers have found the issue of packaging and design charges to be an irritant for years. Recently a supplier in the fresh produce industry told me that that they had been trying to resolve the problem of overcharging in this area for more than 10 years. But within 18 months of me focusing on the problem he was pleased to say the issue had gone away.”

The 2017 survey also saw a increase of more than threefold in the number of suppliers participating, rising to 1,220. It also revealed:

  • For the fourth year running, Aldi topped the overall table in suppliers’ perception of retailers’ compliance with the code, while Tesco “is continuing to improve”, Tacon noted;
  • Delay in payments continues to be the issue of highest concern to suppliers, with with 32% of suppliers reporting incorrect deductions from invoices, with or without notice.

Tacon noted on this last point: “There is still work to be done in this area and I am right to maintain this as one of my Top Five issues.”

At the conference in London, Tacon confirmed she has committed to another year as GCA. Her remit is still being considered by the Government.

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