14 September 2001
Wiseman ducks middle-ground’ controls

By Robert Harris

ROBERT WISEMAN Dairies has avoided strict price controls on milk it sells to the “middle-ground” market in the Highlands.

Instead, the company has assured the Office of Fair Trading that prices will cover the cost of supplying each of its middle-ground Highland customers.

These include corner shops and independent retailers.

The move comes three months after the competition watchdog wrote to Wiseman proposing controls to prevent the company selling such milk cheaper than elsewhere.

In early May, the OFT launched a fresh investigation to discover whether Wiseman was abusing a dominant market position.

The OFT said it acted to protect the interest of Nairn-based dairy Claymore, a subsidiary of Express Dairies.

A similar nine-month inquiry last year resulted in no action being taken against Wiseman, although then trade and industry secretary Stephen Byers asked for the market to be kept under close review.

“We have worked positively and constructively with the OFT to arrive at these assurances,” said chairman, Alan Wiseman.

“We are giving the assurances voluntarily and without prejudice to the outcome of the ongoing investigation, which we remain confident will vindicate the companys stance.”

Although Wiseman points out that Expresss national market share of 27% is almost double its own, Wiseman has an 80% share of Scotlands milk market.

However, the Scottish middle-ground sector accounts for less than 5% of the total UK fresh milk market.