Review of the Year: New supermarket watchdog

Up to four major inquiries can be expected annually into the way big retailers treat their suppliers following the appointment of Christine Tacon as Britain’s first supermarket ombudsman.

The long-awaited appointment was announced by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills in mid-January. The job includes enforcing the Groceries Supply Code of Practice, which sets minimum standards in the way big retailers treat their suppliers.

As watchdog, Ms Tacon will investigate alleged breaches of the code, which applies to all retailers with a turnover of more than £1bn in groceries. Her powers include the ability to fine retailers found guilty of breaching the code – as well as naming and shaming.

It was late June before Ms Tacon officially took up the role. So far, the most common complaint has been backdated deductions from payments. But many suppliers remain frightened to speak out against unfair practices, despite the anonymity offered.

Previously, Ms Tacon spent 11 years as managing director at Co-operative Farms, Britain’s biggest farming business. During her time at the £60m business, she turned a £6m annual loss into a £6m annual profit.

Dismissing suggestions her CV meant she was too close to the farming community, Ms Tacon said: “Having been a farmer, and knowing what goes on, I don’t think they are going to find it easy to pull the wool over my eyes. Having the experience will be a help rather than a hindrance.”

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Q&A with Christine Tacon

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