News that the OFT’s audit of its Code of Practice governing supermarket/supplier relationships has uncovered little hard evidence of big multiples flouting the Code has been enthusiastically greeted by the UK grocery sector.
However, as the OFT has made clear, the Code’s ability to stamp out unfair practices is far from proven given that, even when clear breaches are discovered, suppliers, wary of irreversibly damaging relationships with their powerful supermarket customers by being identified, still appear extremely reluctant to come forward.
Packaging Federation ceo Ian Dent claims the current Code is too heavily supermaket-biased and wants greater scope for anonymity and the facility for independent arbitration at a much earlier stage. Whatever the Code’s future, it is hard to disagree that what is needed is not further consultation – there has surely been enough already – but changes to the Code to ensure that when packaging (and other suppliers) have grievances they are not only unafraid to bring them to the OFT’s attention but also convinced they will be dealt with fast and fairly.
Also in the headlines this month is Rockware’s high profile spat with Quinn Glass over the latter’s plans to operate Europe’s biggest glass packaging plant. Quinn has described Rockware’s objections as a cynical attempt to hinder competition, claiming the plant will bring much-needed jobs at a time when many are going overseas. However Rockware argues the UK glass packaging sector is already at capacity, and warns the Quinn plant could tip the balance.
The government’s decision to call in the application has apparently surprised many, not least local Cheshire MPs, who thought the factory was a fait accomplis. Given the vagaries of UK planning law, there could be plenty more interesting twists and turns to come.