Supermarket group Morrisons has been awarded £100,000 and offered an apology by the Office of Fair Trading in settlement of a defamation action launched by Morrisons last year.

The case followed the publication of a press release by the OFT last September, at the time of its “statement of objections”, which accused a number of retailers of fixing milk, butter and cheese prices to the detriment of consumers in 2002 and 2003.

The claim was immediately denied by Morrisons at the time, which said it took “adherence to competition law very seriously”. And in a statement issued on Wednesday (23 April), the OFT admits it was wrong.

Allegations

Whereas the September 2007 press release suggested that Morrisons had broken competition law in relation to milk, cheese and butter in 2002 and 2003, the OFT’s actual allegation was only concerned with Morrisons’ trade in liquid milk in 2002.

The original press release had also said that Morrisons had previously been warned by the OFT against anti-competitive behaviour. The OFT now accepts this was not the case.

“The OFT regrets that the press release contained these serious errors, and wishes to apologise sincerely to Morrisons for their publication,” said the OFT’s statement this week.

Payment

In addition to the apology, the OFT has agreed to pay Morrisons £100,000, plus costs in relation to both the judicial review and defamation action.

It is understood the supermarket will donate the money to charity.