11 October 2000
Supermarkets – what the papers say

By FWi staff

THE publication of the Competition Commission inquiry into the big supermarkets is considered by the morning newspapers.

The commission recommends a legally binding code of practice to govern relationships between retailers and suppliers.

But on balance, the Commission cleared the supermarkets of excessive profiteering concluding they were “broadly competitive”.

The Independent and the Daily Express condemn the 3.7 million, 1220-page report as “a damp squib”

In its editorial the Independent says the report is “a whitewash that Persil might be proud of” which will leave the consumer paying more than in other countries.

It says the commissions belief that the market is “distorted” in relationships between farmers and retailers is a “secondary concern”.

In The Times, Stephen Alambritis of the Small Business Federation, which represents some farmers, also dismissed the findings as a “whitewash”.

And Lincolnshire cauliflower grower Richard Cordwell told the newspaper that he was sceptical about whether the code of practice would work.

The Times says Mr Cordwell, who does not deal with stores, was the only grower identified by the National Farmers Union prepared to talk about the pressures of supplying supermarkets.

But in its commentary section, the same newspaper says the commissions pronouncements come pretty close to exonerating the stores.

The Financial Times says by absolving the big chains of “ripping off” consumers, the governments campaign to protect consumers has backfired.

“What a rip-off – the Competition Commission report that is” exclaims The Daily Telegraph City Comment column.

It says Mr Byers should be hit over the head with the hefty report for trying to make a “cheap political point” which has proven unfounded.

It argues that a statutory code to stop retailers abusing suppliers could cause bad blood and be difficult to enforce.

And The Guardian says a look at supermarkets profits scotch profiteering claims.

It notes that the commission found that British chains were less profitable that European rivals, and that average earnings have fallen since 1996.