Edition 31: News from the Adjudicator – GOV.UK

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Read the latest newsletter from the Groceries Code Adjudicator (GCA).
We are nearing the end of the Golden Quarter and, in an ideal world, the grocery sector would be focused entirely on getting products on the shelves during the busiest time of the year. However, inflation continues to cause problems and impact relationships between suppliers and Retailers. I have, therefore, intensified my discussions with Retailers about the application of my 7 Golden Rules to Cost Price Increase (CPI) requests. I have been concerned to hear suppliers talk about excessive requests for information, a lack of communication around predicted timelines, inexperienced buyers who are not being supported (and therefore delaying negotiations) and delayed implementation of agreed price rises. Retailers have agreed through the 7 Golden Rules that these are practices they want to avoid, so I encourage suppliers experiencing these issues to contact the Retailer’s Code Compliance Officer (CCO), me, or my team.
I want to take this opportunity to also mention 12 week notice periods for CPI requests. I have heard of buyers claiming an implementation period is a Code requirement. This mirrors inaccurate rumours about appropriate notice periods given to suppliers whose products are being de-listed. I want to be clear that there is no 12-week period prescribed in the Code for either CPIs or de-lists. If you are told this, again please contact me, or my team, or speak to the Retailer’s CCO.
Following my last newsletter, I held my annual conference in September. Hundreds of suppliers participated in discussions on challenges facing the sector and the support available to suppliers from Retailers. I would like to thank everyone who attended and took part in the conference and look forward to seeing many of you at my 2023 conference.
In November, I attended a roundtable with Scottish suppliers organised in partnership with Food and Drink Federation Scotland and Scotland Food and Drink. This gave me the opportunity to hear first-hand about the issues these suppliers were experiencing.
The information I gain from meetings like these helps me to hold Retailers to account and work with them to improve their treatment of suppliers. I am planning visits to all regions of the United Kingdom to ensure I am hearing from a wide range of suppliers. I will advertise future visits in these newsletters so stay tuned for details.
Alternatively, I am keen to hear from suppliers whenever you have issues or information. You can confidentially contact my team with information or to organise a meeting or use my confidential reporting platform – Tell the GCA. All the contact details can be found on the GCA website.
I meet with the CCOs and other representatives of all the Retailers throughout the year and recently held a round of meetings with all the CCOs and have published the details of the meetings.
Unsurprisingly, we discussed the 7 Golden Rules when receiving CPI requests from suppliers and the need for Retailers to treat suppliers fairly and lawfully in the context of the high level of corporate insolvencies in the wider economy. I understand the pressure that both Retailers and suppliers are under, and I will continue working with Retailers to improve processes so they align with the 7 Golden Rules.
I am determined to ensure processes are fair to suppliers, but the price agreed is not itself covered by the Code so I cannot determine the final outcome of a CPI negotiation. As I explained above, I have heard examples of some concerning behaviour which I have discussed with the relevant Retailers.
I also discussed with all the CCOs their work to ensure that suppliers believe with justification that they can raise issues with the GCA or CCOs in the confidence that their confidentiality will be protected. The GCA and the CCOs treat supplier information as confidential, so please do get in touch if you are a supplier facing a Code issue.
Finally, my 2023 survey is scheduled to launch on 16 January and will be open for 6 weeks. This is one of most important ways for suppliers to confidentially tell me about their experiences with the Retailers. Last year, one quarter of suppliers highlighted Retailer responses to CPIs, making this the most raised issue in the last five years.
I want to hear from as many suppliers as possible so I can understand the ongoing impact of inflation and other issues affecting suppliers. As it is also the first time that Amazon will be included in the survey, I am interested to hear from their suppliers about Amazon’s implementation of the Code. I will provide details of how to respond in my next newsletter.
Season’s greetings and I look forward to working with you in 2023.
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