A YouGov survey of supermarket suppliers, including of fruit and vegetables, carried out in the spring for the groceries code adjudicator, Christine Tacon, found that a fifth are still not prepared to raise issues over potential breaches of the code, mainly through fear of retribution or lack of confidence that confidentiality would be maintained.
The survey found that delays in payments and variation in supply agreements and terms continue to be the main issues for direct suppliers. Aldi, which is the first retailer to sign up to the NFU’s ‘fruit and veg pledge’ to treat suppliers more fairly, and Waitrose are the supermarkets judged to comply most consistently with the code.
The results of the survey were released at the adjudicator’s second annual conference in London at the end of June.
At the conference, Ms Tacon said her collaborative approach with retailers was making a difference. For instance, after analysing the way retailers handle and charge for consumer complaints, she has proposed a best practice model for future handling of complaints. “Many suppliers have told me about their concerns that they were being overcharged by retailers for handling consumer complaints about products supplied,” she said.
“I raised this issue with retailers and they have all had a good look at their processes and charges. I am aware that some have changed their approaches as a result.”
But she said the survey had also highlighted how few suppliers were trained in the groceries supply code of practice – overall 29% with only 9% of the smallest suppliers being trained. “Far too many are still learning for the first time about a law that is there to protect them and has been in existence for over five years,” she said.
“Retailer buyers are well-trained in the code, so for a supplier to challenge a request or requirement as non-code compliant, they need to know their rights.”
In September Ms Tacon will be hosting a workshop of suppliers to focus on packaging and design charges, which are one of the top five issues for suppliers that she is now concentrating on.