Monday, June 11, 2007

UK Competition Commission publishes working paper

The Competition Commission investigating practices in the UK supermarket channel has released a working paper that finds numerous areas of concern. According to a British law firm, Cameron McKenna, the commission identified forty-two practices that they categorized under eight headings:
  • Requiring payments or concessions in return for access to shelf space in relation to both new and existing products
  • Imposing conditions relating to suppliers’ trade with other retailers
  • Applying different standards to different suppliers’ offers
  • Imposing an unfair imbalance of risk
  • Imposing retrospective changes to payment or contractual terms
  • Restricting access of suppliers to the market
  • Imposing charges on or transferring costs to suppliers
  • Requiring suppliers of groceries to use third party suppliers nominated by a retailer

Many of these practices are familiar to those of us on this side of the pond. In addition, "The Commission also voiced concern about possible barriers to market entry for small suppliers and the consequent impact on innovation and product choice for consumers."

The article also suggests that the working paper "has prompted speculation that the Commission may impose tough guidelines on retailers."

It seems to me possible that action to halt the growing power of huge retailers might present an example to the FTC in the US. Combine that with the cool reception given by Congress to the Antitrust Modernization Commission's recommendation that Robinson-Patman be repealed, and perhaps there might be an environment developing in which steps might be taken to control retailer power.

Or maybe not. But it will be interesting to watch. Provisional findings are due from the Competition Commission in September -- so that's when we'll get the next clues on how the winds are blowing.

This reminds me that I said several weeks ago that I would put forth my recommendations for reforming rather than repealing R-P. I promise to do so -- someday soon.

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