23 February 2000
Commission to force stores sell-off?

THE Competition Commission could force supermarkets to sell stores to rivals if they are found to exert too much control over any British town or city.

The commission gave this warning in letters to the top five supermarket groups, suggesting remedies to fears over local monopolies.

That statement also calls for the establishment of a nationwide grocery price comparison on the Internet and a voluntary code of conduct for dealing with suppliers.

This was welcomed by the National Farmers Union, which said members had a “genuine fear of commercial reprisals”.

Other suggestions include forcing supermarkets to sell chunks of their land bank, and ensuring superstores charge the same in areas where they have few rivals.

It also suggests stopping loss-leaders, splitting profits by division and sharing profit margin data with the Office of Fair Trading.

Farmers are angry that, while while farmgate prices have been slashed, the cost at checkouts has changed little.

One solution would be to print farmgate prices next to retail costs.