The Groceries Code Adjudicator (GCA) has published draft guidance for consultation on investigating suspected breaches.
The Code of Practice was established to ensure supermarkets treat their suppliers lawfully and fairly. The Adjudicator’s role is to arbitrate on disputes between retailers and suppliers and carry out investigations into suspected breaches of the Code. The Groceries Code Adjudicator can receive confidential complaints and evidence about how large supermarket retailers are treating their direct suppliers.
The guidance sets out the GCA’s criteria for starting an investigation, the procedure for carrying out investigations and its enforcement powers, which include financial penalties. The guidance is proposing that the maximum financial penalty for breaches of the Code is 1% of the retailer’s UK turnover.
Christine Tacon, who was appointed as the Adjudicator in January 2013, said:
Investigations will be important not only to tackle individual breaches of the code but also to send out a clear message to the whole sector when particular behaviour is unacceptable. I can only carry out a small number of investigations so, as set out in the guidance, I will want to choose cases with the maximum impact and importance.
If I do find a breach of the code then there are a range of actions I can take, which can include financial penalties in the most serious cases.
The work I’m already doing to ensure awareness and observation of the code amongst retailers and suppliers aims to prevent problems reaching this stage - but it’s important for everyone to know that this is backed up by the sanction of investigations and potential penalties where necessary.
I need to establish a robust framework which ensures that investigations follow a fair and clearly established procedure - so I would encourage all interested parties to let me know their views.
The GCA cannot start investigations until the final guidance is published but it can arbitrate on disputes and receive complaints which may lead to an investigation.
The guidance is available from the GCA webpage and comments are invited from retailers, suppliers, trade bodies and any other interested parties or individuals. Responses should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Notes for editors
The consultation will run from 31 July until 22 October 2013. A summary of responses will be published on the Statutory guidance on how the Groceries Code Adjudicator will carry out investigation and enforcement functions page and the guidance will be issued by the end of the year.