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 80.

    Hopefully it'll put an end to nasty tricks such as forcing suppliers to use approved packaging from the retailers then changing the packaging design soon after a big order was placed for the old, now unusable pack types.
    Put more than a few farmers under that did.

  • rate this

    Comment number 79.

    "The difference is that the Tory politicans think low taxes are good for everyone"

    By "everyone" no doubt means millionaires and only Tory supporters, that is what they mean by spreading privilege and creating a something for nothing culture. You keep being brain washed by your own Tory Office Press releases and live like an ostrich, smell the tax free coffee!

  • rate this

    Comment number 78.

    Low taxes = reduced investment. Had we spent a bit of money on the utilities instead of selling them off we wouldn't be in the hands of a bunch of money grabbing corporate thugs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    This is a great idea, exactly what the country needs right now. Our government rightly has ombudsmen for other areas such as Gas&Electric who are doing a GREAT job! Now we can pay more money to another person who will have no control of the supermarkets. Good way to spend the money.

  • Comment number 76.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 75.

    "paying them a fair price for their goods"

    You clearly listen too rubbish spouted on the Archers. Supermarket operating margins are around 5%. They are highly competitive businesses in which profit margins are thin. The return on capital employed is not substantial as you suggest. The much heralded nonsense about milk prices had more to do with oversupply than behaviour of supermarkets.

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    @60. WANAITT - where are you living? More food will be imported and our cost of living will increase."

    No, wrong.
    Living in the real world - food prices will actually decrease if UK was allowed to import more from outside EU. You are subsidizing all EU farmers to produce nothing, including UK Monarchs!

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.


    The difference is that the Tory politicans think low taxes are good for everyone whereas Labour politicians think high taxes are good for everyone except themselves.

    It's amazing that they continue to make a fool out of you and you still vote for them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    @60. WANAITT - where are you living? Yes, there are many rich Tory landowners who don't work.There are also many hardworking farmers who lost much of their crops last year, get paid pennies for their milk and are threatened with disease amongst their animals.Their assets are only worth money when sold and these farmers stop producing.More food will be imported and our cost of living will increase.

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    She could start by looking into th eburger scandal.
    That really is something to beef about.

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    "extreme capitalism and greed"

    You have to laugh. I suppose thus that EU imposing high tariffs against farm imports from outside thus ensuring many developing nations can't trade primary produce is fair. Or the fact that UK food prices are 20% above what they should be bec of farm protection/subsidy is extreme; certainly extremely unfair on low wage earners.

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    "I see also that David Miliband is laughing all the way to the bank using tax planning that Labour criticise as " IMMORAL & OUTRAGEOUS!" when other people use it."

    And Butch Flashman did not benefit from the millionaires tax cut, or have anything to do with inherited wealth from Off Shore accounts schemes?
    Ha-Ha the Tory drones will be brainwashed and still vote for him!

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    reading some of theses comments its not just about farmers . The new Ombudsman must look into the way power is abused by the larger supermarkets, yes they will say we have done our bit to keep prices down, but at what cost to quality, an artical this week says we only spend 17% on food vs 33% not so long ago ..Lets have supermarkets having a war on quality not price

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    The way forward is for people to try and buy their fruit and veg from local shops rather than the supermarkets. The supermarkets will always find away around any adverse legislation, they are not going to allow their profits to drop as their shareholders will get upset.

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    D Cameron : free markets are the 'best imaginable force” for improving “human wealth and happiness'

    This appointment would suggest that you don't really believe that free markets can be trusted, that is unless the job is just a smokescreen.

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

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

    Not a zero hours contract as far as this job goes then?

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    40 'Mike W'
    I read an item, a few years ago, that suppliers to supermarket(s) were further drawn in to converting their production to one.

    Then, once captive, the supermarket demanded lower prices from them. When the supplier took their complaint to OFT (?) the supermarket dropped them like a stone.

    This, I guess, is why supermarkets now have such a dangerous monopoly over our food chain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    Oh dear another non job, which will eventually become a nice little earner for failed/retired politicos. The problems between suppliers and supermarkets relate to incompetent contract signing and the lure of having one huge contract with one supermarket. This is simple buisness failure and these suppliers deserve to go to the wall. Wish I could get £69K for a three day week!
    A disgrace....!

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    If it leads to reform of the farming industry that is the price one pays


    It is not being reformed, it is being decimated at the moment which is a consequence of extreme capitalism and greed on the part of big business.

    The way forward for farmers is not hand outs or subsidies, but paying them a fair price for their goods and the supermarkets taking less of a cut

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    That is a high wages for three days work. Are they saying that this post is to scrutinise the supermarkets but that also pay her salary?? Self regulation? Keeping the supermarket bosses happy so they will support and vote for the Tories, while at the same time making us believe that actions against them will be taken. Utter rubbish.


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