Tuesday 8 May 2012

Whistle-blowing for beginners?

In the Queen’s speech tomorrow, the Groceries Code Adjudicator Bill will apparently give suppliers based in Britain and abroad the right to act as anonymous whistle-blowers.

Key aspects will include post-agreement negotiation, where retailers try to obtain further price reductions and change terms, having struck a deal, along with failure to pay within the time agreed.

Key issues:
The key issues are preservation of anonymity, itself no mean achievement on the part of government with a long record of losing and inadvertently releasing confidential details of members of the public, and gathering sufficient sustainable evidence to make a case against a major retailer.

Preserving anonymity:
The only safe route to anonymity for a supplier is to remove any reference to category or origin that would identify the whistle-blowing company. However, sufficient detail has to be included that will make it possible to categorise the complaint (here the government could help by listing a maximum of ten types of complaint, and 10 broad product categories) and invite submissions on these points).

Sustainability of evidence:
In the interests of sustainability of the evidence, perhaps the government should specify minimum conditions on whistleblowing submissions, in order to count as ‘evidence’. In practice, it is difficult under current competition legislation for suppliers to collaborate in drawing up such checklists, so it may be necessary for individual suggestions to be submitted to authorised third parties (i.e. legal firms).

The same firms might also find it useful to draw up minimal templates for submission of complaints?

Using these guidelines, a supplier with a grievance could prepare an anonymous hard copy, run it past the inhouse lawyers and commercial team/board, and post it in a plain envelope from a central London postbox.

Paranoia? If the government are really serious about this one, this is how they can attempt to over-ride the fear and impact of the consequences for suppliers that are found to have blown the whistle, naively...

1 comment:

John Noble said...

We have yet to see the legislation but it may well be possible for suppliers to work with those trade associations that can speak collectively on their behalf, such as the British Brands Group. This approach will strengthen confidentiality and preserve anonymity.