Subscriber login Close [x]
remember me
You are not logged in.

Groceries Code Adjudicator hamstrung in efforts to fine supermarkets

Published:  20 January, 2015

The Groceries Code Adjudicator has admitted she is hamstrung in her efforts to reprimand retailers as the government has not yet finalised her powers to hand out fines.

Christine TaconGroceries Code adjudicator Christine TaconThe GSCOP adjudicator has criticised the delay in being able to impose fines on retailers who break the Code.

Christine Tacon, the Groceries Code Adjudicator, told last night's BBC Panorama programme about Tesco's ongoing difficulties that 18 months after starting the job she still cannot fine supermarkets for breaking the Code.

One year ago she applied to the government for the power to fine retailers up to 1% of their UK revenues, which in the case of Tesco could equate to £400 million. However a statutory instrument authorising the power has not yet been laid before Parliament.

She told the BBC's Kamal Ahmed: "As we sit here at the moment, I can't fine a retailer, I have the legal powers to do so, but I don't have a maximum, so I therefore can't. There is no figure."

Vince Cable, business secretary, told the programme that Tacon should have the power to fine suppliers, and blamed the Treasury for the delay.

"I fully support that, I would like to see it implemented. Unfortunately my Conservative colleagues in government haven't been willing to go along with it, so it hasn't happened yet."

The GSCOP adjudicator has already had success since she took up the role a year ago.

The Treasury told the BBC: "We are unaware of any delay. We introduced this code and are working through details in the usual way."

The programme also spoke to suppliers, many of whom reported negative experiences in dealing with the supermarket's buyers - whose tactics were described as increasingly aggressive and creative.

But Robin Copestick, managing director of wine supplier Copestick Murray, told the programme it had built a strong business with Tesco in the past 10 years.  "If we hadn't dealt with Tesco in the early years, it would be very difficult to see how our business would have been.  In a way you've got to think that we're really renting space from them to sell our product. It would be to our benefit as well as their benefit."

Former Tesco boss Sir Terry Leahy was also interviewed for the programme and pushed the blame for Tesco's woes on to his successor. "People tried very hard to do the right thing; it clearly has not worked. In the end, that's a failure of leadership, not a failure of the business, not a failure of the people who work hard every day in the business. When you're the CEO, if it goes well, you get credit, if it doesn't go well, you must take responsibility and Phil Clarke has taken that responsibility and paid the price with his job."

But commentators, including the Guardian's Nils Pratley, have criticised the former leader, saying he is trying to "discourage further scrutiny of his own record". 

A recent poll carried out by found 32% of wine and spirits suppliers rated Tesco the worst retailer to deal with.