By Francesca James

The Forum of Private Business is calling on all smaller suppliers to anonymously ‘name and shame’ late paying companies.

Many suppliers fear that speaking out individually will lead to unwelcome reprisals and cost them business, but via its Late Payment Hall of Shame the Forum provides a way for them to identify late payers yet still protect their identities.

The call follows the latest Business, Enterprise and Skills Committee hearing scrutinising the Draft Groceries Code Adjudicator Bill, which has been drawn up to establish a ‘supermarket ombudsman’ to protect suppliers.

The move was recommended by the Competition Commission in 2008 following an extensive inquiry into alleged abuses in the groceries market. However, the Forum is concerned that the new body will lack any real teeth.

Contrary to what some of the leading supermarkets have argued at an earlier hearing, the Forum believes there remains a climate of fear surrounding indentifying large retailers, in particular, which routinely squeeze their suppliers.

“We are urging all small suppliers who have suffered to come forward and provide us with evidence that they have been squeezed, and we can absolutely guarantee their anonymity,” said the Forum’s Head of Campaigns Jane Bennett.

“Late payment destroys companies yet it is often seen as normal practice by many big supermarkets and other companies, which believe it is acceptable to create lines of credit at the expense of their smaller suppliers. We certainly do not.

“Previous initiatives to address late payment have failed. We are committed to helping small firms and the economy as a whole by building a momentum for change, and that means shedding light on the epidemic of late payment in the UK.

“The problem is that, although we know this problem is rife, far too few business owners are willing to come forward, even though we ensure we will protect their identity. The message is that, by standing together as a collective, we can give small businesses a powerful voice they would not otherwise have.”

According to the payment body Bacs more than £24 billion in outstanding invoice payments is owned to small firms.