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The Pubs Code Adjudicator is responsible for enforcing the statutory Pubs Code. The Pubs Code regulates the relationship between all pub companies owning 500 or more tied pubs in England and Wales and their tied tenants.

The Pubs Code Adjudicator (PCA) is the independent regulator responsible for enforcing the statutory Pubs Code (the Code). The Code regulates the relationship between all pub companies (referred to as pub-owning businesses in the Code) owning 500 or more tied pubs in England and Wales and their tied tenants. Tied tenants are those that are obliged to purchase beer and/or other products or services from their landlord.

The pub companies covered by the Code are:

  • Admiral Taverns
  • Ei Group PLC (formerly Enterprise Inns PLC)
  • Greene King PLC
  • Marston’s PLC
  • Punch Taverns PLC
  • Star Pubs & Bars (Heineken UK)

The principles of the Code are to ensure:

  • fair and lawful dealing by pub companies in their dealing with tied tenants
  • tied tenants are no worse off than if they were free of tie

The Code imposes information and transparency obligations on the pub companies. An important element of the Code is the introduction of the option for tied tenants in certain circumstances to request a Market Rent Only (or MRO) option.

Responsibilities

Paul Newby - the Pubs Code Adjudicator, and Fiona Dickie – the Deputy Pubs Code Adjudicator, are responsible for monitoring and encouraging compliance with and enforcing the Code.

  • The PCA has adopted a modern regulatory approach which reflects the principles of the Regulator’s Code. The PCA works collaboratively, where appropriate, with pub companies to respond to issues raised by tied tenants and others to bring about beneficial change in the sector.
  • The PCA issues advice and guidance which aims to help tied tenants understand what their rights are under the Code and to set out to pub companies what the PCA’s expectations are regarding Code compliance.
  • The PCA monitors compliance with the Code. The PCA can investigate where there is reasonable suspicion that a pub company has breached the Code, with enforcement measures ranging from recommendations to imposing financial penalties on a pub company (or companies).
  • The PCA arbitrates Code disputes between a tied tenant and their pub company.

Dual Role

This dual role of both regulator and arbitrator, which Parliament has given to the PCA, is a powerful one. Though arbitrations are confidential unless both parties agree otherwise, the general lessons learned from them can be used to get the message across to the wider industry on how the Code should be applied.

As a modern regulator, it is important that the PCA has regular contact with pub companies in order to maintain a dialogue with those regulated under the Code, reflecting the Regulator’s Code. The PCA also has regular contact with a Tenant Reference Group and other stakeholders, and attends industry events in order to be as accessible as possible to tied tenants.

The PCA is aware of both the need to separate the roles of regulator and arbitrator and to be as transparent as possible about the way it carries out each of these roles.

In discussions with pub companies or any other person or body, the PCA will never discuss individual cases which are or may be the subject of arbitration.

The PCA is aware that parties to arbitrations are entitled to have full confidence that the arbitrator has no conflict of interest and conducts arbitrations fairly. A further safeguard is provided through the oversight of the PCA’s Compliance Officer, who will take all necessary steps to ensure that there is a clear separation of functions and that neither the PCA nor the Deputy PCA does anything that could compromise that confidence or give rise to a reasonable perception of bias. The test for apparent bias the courts apply is ‘whether the fair-minded observer, having considered the facts, would conclude that there was a real possibility’ of bias. The Compliance Officer will apply this test objectively, but not to the extent that an undue concern for appearances is allowed to interfere unnecessarily with the functioning of the PCA office. Full details of the Compliance Officer’s role are set out in the PCA’s Conflict of Interest Policy.

As a general rule, the PCA will publish the minutes of meetings with stakeholders on the PCA’s website. There may, however, be times when it is important for the PCA or Deputy PCA, in order to act as an effective regulator, to be able to discuss matters that are not subsequently made public. This would be for example to allow full and frank discussions with pub companies on matters of specific commercial sensitivity, and will never relate to individual arbitrations. Further details are set out in the PCA’s response to a Freedom of Information Act request on meetings between the PCA and pub-owning businesses.

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