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Last Updated: Wednesday, 31 October 2007, 10:59 GMT
Supermarkets report: What experts say
Consumers get a good deal from supermarkets on the whole, but there are some areas where more competition is needed, according to a preliminary report from the Competition Commission.

The main areas of concern are the questions of whether suppliers are being mistreated and if the planning system means that some areas have too little choice between supermarkets.

PETER FREEMAN, CHAIRMAN, COMPETITION COMMISSION

I think, overall, the position is not too bad.

Peter Freeman, Chairman, Competition Commission
The supermarket industry and the retail industry generally has done very well for consumers over many years.

What we've found is one or two areas - about 10% of all - where there are problems, and these we'd like to address.

I don't think it's a question of too few supermarkets - there's a question of whether the shopper has sufficient choice so that the supermarkets who are there and other retailers are not giving them the best value.

We are not happy with everything that is going on between supermarkets and their suppliers.

In general, a healthy tension is a good thing for consumers but we are concerned about some aspects.

JAMES LOWMAN, ASSOCIATION OF CONVENIENCE STORES

There are lots of groups of consumers who I think haven't benefited from the rise of supermarkets: those who haven't got access to a car, for example.

James Lowman, Association of Convenience Stores
No-one's saying that we should do away with supermarkets, but I think there is a case for saying, "What other choice is there in the market," and there has been a decline of choice of other stores.

The Competition Commission has been using very flawed data to analyse the presence of other stores and we believe there has been a significant decline in the independent market.

KEVIN HAWKINS, BRITISH RETAIL CONSORTIUM

Overall, I think it is quite a balanced report.

Kevin Hawkins, British Retail Consortium
It is sensible and it actually comes to the conclusion that the grocery market is delivering a good deal for consumers.

But the code of practice (for suppliers) that was agreed five years ago just isn't working.

Why isn't it working? Because most suppliers, especially small suppliers, won't put their heads above the parapet.

They won't articulate their grievances against retail customers because they're afraid and we've got to get rid of this fear factor.

SANDRA BELL, FRIENDS OF THE EARTH

The Competition Commission has reported the very real problems in the grocery market, but does not offer any solutions.

Sandra Bell, Friends of the Earth
This inadequate response confirms that supermarkets bully their suppliers and reduce choice to consumers, but unless the commission goes on to take brave and robust action, including the appointment of a supermarket regulator to oversee the market, nothing will change.

The commission's recommendation that would allow for more big out-of-town supermarkets could be the death-knell for the High Street.

MATT HARDMAN, FORUM OF PRIVATE BUSINESS

We saw no guarantee of anonymity for the suppliers of supermarkets in this investigation.

Matt Hardman, Forum of Private Business
The commission said it would consider such requests, but that was not the cast-iron guarantee that suppliers needed and was the fundamental flaw in this investigation.

Suppliers of the supermarkets know that they are pushed too hard by the purchasing power of these giant retailers.

Those unreasonable demands are not only damaging our suppliers, but are then being passed down the supply chain.

More must be done to make payment terms agreeable to both parties involved in contracts.

MATTHEW KNOWLES, FEDERATION OF SMALL BUSINESSES

This is the third inquiry in seven years, but sadly it is not third time lucky.

Matthew Knowles, Federation of Small Businesses
The initial findings miss the point entirely.

Competition between the Big Four supermarkets is not the same as free and fair competition across the whole grocery sector.

The initial findings focus on declining grocery prices while ignoring the huge reduction in consumer choice that results from the number of small shops falling dramatically.

The devastating impact of the current unfair grocery market can be seen on High Streets across the country.


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