5 January 2001

Dairy to escape action following monopoly probe

ROBERT Wiseman Dairies has welcomed the announcement by trade and industry secretary Stephen Byers that no action is to be taken against the firm, despite the Competition Commission pointing out that Wisemans monopoly in Scotland could operate against the public interest.

Company chairman Alan Wiseman said: "We are pleased that, after an exhaustive nine-month inquiry, no action is to be taken in relation to the companys operations in Scotland."

The Competition Commission inquiry was launched after numerous complaints by Claymore Dairies, a subsidiary of Express Dairies, relating to anti-competitive behaviour in the supply of milk to corner shops and independent retail outlets in Scotland.

Wiseman is the largest supplier of fresh milk in Scotland, with a market share of over 70%.

The four members of the CC inquiry were split on the main facts of the case. But because less than two-thirds of the group supported the conclusion, Mr Byers was required by the rules of the 1998 Competition Act to disregard it.

He has, however, asked the Director General of Fair Trading to keep the market under close review.

Scottish NFU milk committee chairman Ian Kerr pointed out the time, effort and money wasted in an inquiry that had ultimately come to nothing.

However, he was relieved that no action would be taken against Wiseman.

"We must ensure that dairy farmers have buyers for their milk and that processing capacity in Scotland is not reduced," Mr Kerr said. &#42