The Government has appointed Christine Tacon, the former head of Co-operative Group’s farming business, to the newly-created role of independent Groceries Code Adjudicator (GCA).
The Groceries Supply Code of Practice regulates interactions between the 10 largest supermarkets, with annual turnovers of £1bn, and their direct suppliers. Tacon will be able to launch investigations into suspected breaches of the Code, arbitrate disputes between large supermarkets and their direct suppliers and fine retailers.
However, the British Retail Consortium has argued that any Groceries Adjudicator would be a costly, ineffective burden to retailers.
Consumer and competition minister Jo Swinson said: “This is an incredibly important position in the retail groceries sector making sure that large supermarkets treat their suppliers fairly and lawfully.”
Tacon will not take up the role until the Groceries Code Adjudicator Bill is passed by Parliament, expected to be in the spring. Until then she will be Adjudicator-Designate.
Tacon’s career includes 12 years’ experience in sales and marketing at FMCG companies such as Mars, Anchor and Vodafone. She ran the Co-operative Group’s farming business for 11 years until 2012. In 2004 she was awarded a CBE for services to agriculture.
She will earn £69,000 per year in the role and work three days a week.
A spokesman for Waitrose said: “Waitrose welcomes the Government’s announcement of Christine Tacon as the first Grocery Code Adjudicator. We have consistently supported the concept of a GCA, since we place fair treatment of our suppliers at the heart of the way we do business. We look forward to working with Christine as she discharges her responsibilities.
“In due course, as we have also repeatedly said, we would like to make sure that the costs of the GCA fall most on those who breach the rules, not evenly across the industry. But today is a day to welcome an important step forward in ensuring high standards of conduct across the supermarket sector.”
Kurt Salmon manager Mark O’Hanlon said: “Despite the headlines, most retailers do try to buy responsibly most of the time although there are instances where individual buyers may over-reach. However, there are a number of suppliers who are very disgruntled and have been for many years and may decide to teach some of the retailers a lesson.
“However, it is important that these issues are judged based on the hard facts and relative to the code and that this does not become a publicity exercise. The danger is that this would bring the code into dis-repute and restrict competition with buyers reluctant to move business around, resulting in them not being able to strike the best deal for the customer.”
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Former Co-op farming boss Christine Tacon appointed first Groceries Code Adjudicator