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 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 53.

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

    Meanwhile the average supermarket worker is paid no more than 16k PA and usually has to work 6 days a week.

    This is what is wrong with this country - too many (in both private and public sectors) paid huge salaries (yes "£69k is a huge salary) for very few days "work" whilst the rest of us work a full week for peanuts!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    Wasn't she in charge at the co op when they avoided paying farmers a fair price for their milk? the farmers had to set up a blockade to force the co op to pay them more.

    I'm sure they'll be pleased that Ms Tacon has been appointed to protect them against dodgy supermarkets.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    Didn't see the post advertised at the Job Centre...

    ... there again, they only advertise low-paid, temporary, often part-time jobs - not 'proper' jobs that pay a living wage, never mind a fat salary for part-time work.

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

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


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