The UK’s supermarket watchdog has published its annual grocery code compliance list, naming and shaming supermarkets for poor treatment of suppliers and other breaches of the industry code of practice.The UK’s supermarket watchdog has published its annual grocery code compliance list, naming and shaming supermarkets for poor treatment of suppliers and other breaches of the industry code of practice.
This year, Asda has secured the dubious honour of having the poorest relationship with its suppliers, leapfrogging its West Yorkshire rival Morrisons which topped the shame list last year. Iceland, meanwhile, was ranked worst for overall compliance with the Groceries Supply Code of Practice in the past year.
The question most suppliers will be asking, however, is whether yet another round of exposing the poor behaviour of the big supermarkets will actually lead to any changes.Toothless?The Groceries Supply Code of Practice was introduced by the government in 2009 in a bid to regulate the activities of Britain’s 10 biggest supermarket chains. Top of the list of concerns was how these powerful big hitters treated suppliers, with punitive payment terms, non-payment of invoices and eye-watering squeezes on small business margins rife across the industry.
Many now believe that, eight years after it was introduced, the code has done little or nothing to improve the situation. The code itself was followed up by the creation of the office of Groceries Code Adjudicator (GCA) in 2013, effectively the watchdog charged with enforcing the code.
Since then, however, the GCA, which publishes the annual compliance report, has been roundly criticised for failing to bring a single prosecution. Earlier this year, the GCA was lambasted for claiming that there was ‘no problem’ with late payments to suppliers in the supermarket industry.
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Meanwhile, the fact that it keeps publishing these reports outlining what the supermarkets have done wrong in itself suggests little progress is being made changing the behaviour of the big grocers. With little more than some occasional bad publicity to worry about, you get the feeling the big supermarkets see the GCA as all but toothless.Clear as MudAs for this year’s report, which is based on a survey of suppliers as well as the GCA’s own records, more than one in ten (12%) of Asda’s suppliers complained that the Walmart-owned chain rarely or never followed the code of practice in its dealings with them.
Specific accusations included the supermarket making sudden demands for lump sum payments so it could gloss over its own losses, making unexplained deductions from invoices and delving into suppliers’ private accounts.
Iceland’s relationship with the code, meanwhile, is hazy to say the least. Although the frozen discounter ranked worst overall for “general compliance”, the GCA said it had not received any specific complaints about it in the past year - prompting claims by Iceland that it was in fact the best performing retailer in terms of specific issues raised by suppliers.
About as clear as mud, then.
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