The UK's Groceries Code Adjudicator (GCA) Christine Tacon has said that her powers extends to overseas suppliers who feel they are being unfairly treated by retailers.

Speaking recently, she reminded Irish suppliers that she has the power to deal with any complaints against any of the 10 regulated retailers in her jurisdiction.

One of the Adjudicator's priorities for the year ahead is to raise awareness among overseas suppliers about her role and the UK's Groceries Supply Code of Practice.

If a supplier has an issue, bring me the information about breaches of the Code and I will act swiftly.

The Groceries Code Adjudicator is the UK’s first independent adjudicator to oversee the relationship between supermarkets and their suppliers.

It ensures that large supermarkets treat their direct suppliers lawfully and fairly, investigates complaints and arbitrates in disputes.

In a survey carried out by the GCA, which was pushed out to all suppliers by retailers, showed that only 33% of overseas suppliers were aware of the role of the GCA and the Groceries Supply Code of Practice.

This compared to an 88% understanding among domestic suppliers, she said.

Meanwhile, the survey also revealed that only 5% of direct overseas suppliers had received training on the code of practice.

The key reasons given for not having received the proper code training were not realising code training was available and not knowing how to access it or who provides it.

In her presentation at a recent IFA conference, Tacon said major progress had been made since the establishment of the GCA in 2013.

The proportion of suppliers with issues against retailers has been falling for the past three years, with 8% less issues reported this year compared to 2015, she said.

All the retailers acted on issues I raised with them last year and suppliers reported that most retailers’ behaviour had improved.

"However, I am acutely aware that over 60% of those who responded to my annual survey had still experienced code-related issues.

“I will continue to work with suppliers, retailers and customers to achieve change in the sector. My current focus is on payments for better positioning, margin maintenance, delay in payments and pay to stay,” she said.

Does the Republic of Ireland need an Ombudsman?

The IFA President, Joe Healy, also called for an independent Ombudsman to be appointed to police the retail sector, during the conference.

Tacon believes that Ireland must decide carefully whether or not an Ombudsman is needed, but she also said her appointment in the UK made a considerable difference.

Despite the Groceries Supply Code of Practice existing from February 2010 in the UK, no real changes were made until she was appointed in 2013, she said.

The general belief amongst suppliers is that nothing really changed until they announced that I was coming into the role.

The appointment of an Adjudicator certainly encouraged retailers to take the code seriously and brought about significant improvements in the UK sector, she said.