By Daniel Hunter

The Groceries Code Adjudicator Bill has been given the Royal Assent, creating the UK’s first independent adjudicator to oversee the relationship between large supermarkets and their direct suppliers.

“This government is committed to ensuring that all businesses have access to fair and open markets," Competition Minister Jo Swinson said.

“The Groceries Code Adjudicator will make sure that large supermarkets abide by the Groceries Supply Code of Practice, and treat their suppliers fairly and lawfully. This will give suppliers the stability to help them grow, innovate and compete in the market. That is why I’m delighted the Bill achieved Royal Assent today.

“I am sure that the Adjudicator will make strides towards delivering fairer food supply chains and stronger growth in the industry.”

The Groceries Code Adjudicator has been established to enforce the Groceries Supply Code of Practice. The Code regulates the relationship between the ten largest supermarkets, with an annual turnover of £1 billion, and their direct suppliers. The Code was established by the Competition Commission in 2010, after their 2008 market investigation found some large retailers were transferring excessive risks to their direct suppliers.

The Adjudicator can:

- arbitrate disputes between retailers and suppliers
- investigate confidential complaints from direct and indirect suppliers, whether in the UK or overseas, and from third parties
- hold to account retailers who break the rules by ‘naming and shaming’ or, if necessary, imposing a fine

Earlier this year it was announced that Christine Tacon had been appointed as the Adjudicator- Designate. Ms Tacon has held numerous roles within the food and farming industries, and in 2004 was awarded a CBE for services to agriculture.

The Act will come into force in June. The Adjudicator will publish guidance shortly after this, setting out how she will operate.

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