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GCA publishes new retail guidelines

The Grocery Code Adjudicator (GCA) has published new guidelines that spell out what is required of retailers and how it is monitoring compliance.

Christine Tacon (Photo: BBC)

The GCA, which is headed up by Christine Tacon, was established in 2013 to ensure retailers complied with the 2010 Grocery Code. In January it concluded a year long investigation into Tesco for unfair dealings with its suppliers, publishing a damning report that found Britain’s biggest retailer had treated suppliers “unacceptably”, including deliberately delaying payments to its suppliers in order to meet its own financial targets and demanding payments in from some suppliers to help meet its margins. In 2015, wine suppliers were among those asked for additional payment for “clearance support”.

The new guide promises “simple and straightforward” ways to engage with retailers and hear their views, and ensure that clear information, guidance and advice is available for them, while maintaining transparency.

Retailers have to submit annual compliance reports, which the GCA cross-refers with its own raw data and monitoring process, and provides feedback on. It also conducts quarterly meetings with retailers, as well as a group meeting every six months to highlight areas that suppliers have raised. It also has the power to have ad hoc meetings to gain direct facts from retailers to tackle issues that may have been brought to light through the media or through suppliers or to clarify issues raised in the audit or meetings.

It covers retailers who have a turnover of over £1bn, and includes ten retailers, Marks & Spencer, Aldi, Lidl, The Co-operative, Waitrose, Tesco, Sainsbury, Morrison, Asda and Iceland.  However there have been repeated calls to lower this threshold and give the CGA more “teeth” in both its investigations to cover the whole supply chain rather than just direct contracts, and have greater powers of punishment.

In May, the levy was doubled to £2m to help fund investigations into unfair practices and root out more problems.

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