Retail watchdog

The Groceries Code Adjudicator is tasked with ensuring fair play between market forces and retailers trying to manipulate things. There were many dubious practices in play at the end of the twentieth century and with retailers holding the whip hand over suppliers, an external agency was long overdue. The position of Groceries Code Adjudicator was first discussed in 2009 and it was long in the making. Its terms of reference are here. The Groceries Code Adjudicator Act of 2013 set up the retail watchdog, which operates out of one of London’s dockland office blocks.

Answerable to what was then the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the adjudicator had a handful of seconded secretarial staff. Just over a dozen retailers with annual sales of more than one billion pounds and now including Amazon, have compliance officers. These are members of the retailers’ management staff, charged with enforcing the provisions of the Act.

There is one major shortcoming with the framing of the act, though. While there are many links in a supply chain, only the retailer and the supplier who is paid by the retailer are covered by the legislation. As yet, there is no attempt to legislate for the more complex structures and working relationships that exist in the food industry.

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