Christine Tacon named as supermarket ombudsman


Christine Tacon explains what her role as 'Groceries Code Adjudicator' involves

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Christine Tacon, who ran the Co-operative's farming unit for 11 years, has been named by the government as the first supermarket ombudsman.

The creation of the post was first recommended by the Competition Commission in 2008 to resolve disputes between supermarkets and suppliers.

As "Groceries Code Adjudicator", Ms Tacon will have the power to fine misbehaving supermarkets.

She will hold the post for four years, once a law creating the post is passed.

Ms Tacon will be responsible for policing the "groceries supply code of practice", which was instituted under the last government in 2010 in order to ensure that the 10 biggest supermarket groups - with annual turnover of over £1bn each - did not abuse their relations with their suppliers.

Anonymous tip-offs

"It's quite a big responsibility, trying to represent the direct suppliers and making sure they've got fair contracts with the retailers," Ms Tacon told the BBC.

The code of conduct came two years after the conclusion of a major two-year review of the supermarkets by the Competition Commission, which criticised the exclusivity arrangement often signed between the supermarket chains and their suppliers.

One of the past practices banned by the code of conduct, according to Ms Tacon, involved supermarkets receiving a payment from a packaging firm in return for forcing their suppliers to use that packaging firm even if it was more expensive.

However, she will not officially take up the watchdog role until the Groceries Code Adjudicator Bill is passed by Parliament later this year. In the meantime she will act as "Adjudicator-Designate".

"This is an incredibly important position in the retail groceries sector making sure that large supermarkets treat their suppliers fairly and lawfully," said Consumer and Competition Minister, Jo Swinson.

Ms Tacon will be able to investigate anonymous tip-offs from suppliers.

"It's a reactive role - I have to get complaints before I can get actually involved and do something," she said. "There has been a lot of representation [from suppliers] that, although there is a code of practice, if it is not followed, people are frightened of complaining."

She said that the first stage, if she identifies a malpractice, is to make recommendations as to what supermarkets should do in future.

If a supermarket fails to comply, it can then be named and shamed, and - as a last resort - fined.

Ms Tacon has previously worked for Mars Confectionery, Vodafone and Anchor Foods, and currently holds a number of non-executive positions in the agriculture sector, including chair of the BBC's rural affairs advisory committee.

She will earn £69,000 per year in her new job, working three days a week.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    It will be interesting to see the terms of reference and what constitutes a complaint, will it be from suppliers who believe undue pressure or will we be complaints from the public . Will suppliers be prepared to take a complaint to the Ombudsman and if they are successful will the supermarkets still do business with them , I doubt it

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    Can she do something about the disparity between the price supermarkets pay for lamb and the price they charge?

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    Here's hoping this works.....

    ....but despite having an energy sector Ombudsman we still get riped off every day by the greedy, profiteering, companies in the sector.....

    ....I do hope this role has suficient powers to be effective & isn't just all show & no teeth......which knowing this spin heavy Omnichamolic Govt. is not a given.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    £69k pa for 3 days work?
    Think we need a salaries ombudsman.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    Richard Alley (Comment 31)
    You are wrong, 0.5% of daily takings would be an incredibly huge fine. For example Tesco's have sales of £1,000,000,000 (a billion) a week so 0.5% of one days takings would be a fine of over £700,000. A fine of £10,000 is more likely would would be more like 0.01% of a day's turnover.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    I see this requires the passage of a law first, so the position presumably has to be debated, or is it subject to the MPs Treasury sub-committee scrutiny first? The sentiment is fine, but the money would be better spent on reinstating the food inspectorate structure which has been destroyed by government cutbacks. Also respectfully suggest that £69K requires FULL TIME weekly commitment.

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    "The govt should instead set up a commission to look in to the disgrace that is CAP/the scandal of food tarriffs."

    It would not dare as the biggest beneficiaries are Tories and Monarchs!

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    Yes, indeed it's very clear from the picture what the job will entail.
    Smiling, with a cocktail in hand and a huge hamper full of strawberries by her side.

    As a previous employee of Vodafone - does she know whether they are paying any corporation taxes in the UK yet? Perhaps that would be a better post, with insider information.

    As others have said, existing departments should do this job .

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    Utter watse of time and money. Market for food is competitive; it doesn't need such interference. The govt should instead set up a commission to look in to the disgrace that is CAP/the scandal of food tarriffs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    Give her a chance. But know doubt the first time she discovers a problem and reports the MD or Chairman of the Company will have a quiet phone call, off the record of course, and for the sake of party re-election finance the issue will be settle bewteen them by use of a fine of 0.5% of the daily turnover of the company and the BBC will report it as a huge fine.

    Now someone tell me I'm Wrong?

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    Official photo, is drinking alcohol. Good image.

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    Over-paid and under-worked for a non-job.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    "She will earn £69,000 per year in her new job, working three days a week"

    I'm gobsmacked!

    Although I'm glad to report some of the supermarkets comments on this development.

    TESCO - "Every little helps!"
    MORRISONS - "Fresh choice for you!"
    ASDA - "Saving You Money Everyday!"

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    It seems the objective of this job is to keep prices high. If a supermarket will only pay a farmer a certain amount, the farmer has a choice - sell at that price, or not. If the price is too high, then the farmer needs to look at alternative buyers, or reduce their costs. Interfering in free markets always end in tears.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    There is an ombudsman for energy and yet it is still a cartel set up to produce biggest private profits while ripping off consumers. This will be no different.

    Massive government smokescreen.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    ombudsman to protect landowners from corporations paid for by the tax payer, while they horse meat in burger pattys, glad to see the government has the consumers best interests at heart.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    After I had experience with OFCOM I believe this is waste of public Money.Telephone Charges no one understands as there are so many Tariff even regulator says it is difficult to understand. Customer Service
    Department at service Provider even do not understand. There are 54 Pages of Non geogrophical Numbers from one of the Service Provider with charging Tariff running of each Number.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    Ironic that this Govt promised no more "nanny state" and "burning of the quangos", and is now creating more and more quangos, tiers, and non-jobs and setting up inquiries by the day. Another part-time job that this incompetent govt is so good at creating. Yet when it came to the Press - this Govt ran a mile if anyone dared mentioned "controlling" them in a similar manner.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    And in other news, Goldman Sachs food trader appointed by UN to investigate if futures trading in food is putting up prices.

    Mr Money will take up the 2 day a week 100k a year job while he continues to work for Goldman the other 3 days a week after the UN decided there was no conflict of interest, and that his "inside knowledge" would be a "fantastic asset"

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    The whole ombudsmen racket is just a government sop to appear to be doing something they have no intention of regulating. Kerrrrrrr-chiing!


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