Competition expert Myles O’Reilly told delegates he believed the Competition Commission might be persuaded to act against below cost selling by the major multiples, if, as seems likely, it is asked to investigate the grocery trade by the Office of Fair Trading.
He said: “I thought that the Competition Commission Report of 2000 was an excellent document.
“I was only disappointed that, having found that persistent below cost selling was against the public interest when it was undertaken by retailers with more than 8% of the market, the Competition Commission did not recommend a suitable remedy, such as a ban on below cost selling.”
O’Reilly said: “I hope that, on this occasion, the Competition Commission will consider possible remedies to the practice of below cost selling with a more open mind.
“It should be possible for the independent trade to persuade the Competition Commission to introduce a ban on below cost selling or at least on price flexing.
“These measures would go some way to creating a level playing field and would give confidence to independent retailers, whether they are members of symbol groups or not, to invest in their business.”
O’Reilly also praised the recommendation by the All Party Parliamentary Small Shops Group that a retail regulator should be appointed.
He said: “Essentially, persons working for competition bodies tend to be advocates of the market and are against fair trade measures.”
And he warned: “If there are to be fair trade measures in the grocery trade it would be better to have these enforced by a body other than one of the competition bodies.”