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Friday, 25 February, 2000, 12:29 GMT
OFT chief to move on
supermarket interior
The OFT's role is to be the consumer's champion
John Bridgeman will not be re-appointed as head of Britain's competition watchdog, the Office of Fair Trading, when his contract expires in October.

Mr Bridgeman was told a few weeks ago that he would not get a second term because ministers wanted someone else at the helm of the consumer protection organisation, his officials confirmed.

john bridgeman
John Bridgeman said he was "looking forward to new challenges"

"I have known for some time that it would want to make its own appointment to the post when my term ends in October this year. I wish my successor well," he said in a statement.

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), which decides on who should do the job, said: "The government has decided at the end of John Bridgeman's term in office to look for a new appointee."

The news comes amid reports of private disagreements between Mr Bridgeman and government ministers on some competition policy decisions.

However, Sue Jones, head of news at the OFT, said there had never been any direct criticism from ministers.

"No direct complaints have been received," she said.

New powers

Next week, Mr Bridgeman will oversee the introduction of a new competition act which will give the OFT sweeping new powers to fine firms up to 10% of their turnover for operating cartels.

The government has created a powerful new role for the director general of fair trading, and I have known for some time that it would want to make its own appointment to the post when my term ends," Mr Bridgeman is quoted as saying.

An advertisement for the 150,000 a year job is expected to go out within the next week or so, the OFT said.

Speculation about the front runners to take over the job immediately revolved around Howard Davies, head of the Financial Services Authority, Denise Kingsmill, deputy head of the Competition Commission and Don Cruickshank, the former telecommunication regulator.

But Howard Davies quickly ruled himself out. "I can tell you on the record, Howard Davies is not a contender," an FSA spokesman said.

Mr Cruickshank is currently investigating competition in the banking sector.

He was asked to do so by Chancellor Gordon Brown in what was seen by some commentators as a snub to Mr Bridgeman who has not always seen eye-to-eye with ministers.

When asked to by the chancellor to launch an inquiry into petrol prices, the OFT replied by saying that most of the pricing issue was due to the level of tax imposed.

The organisation lost an expensive legal court battle against the premier league in the restrictive practices court.

It recently referred investigations into supermarkets and car prices to the competition commission for further inquiries.

Before joining the OFT, Mr Bridgeman, 55, spent six years at the monopolies and mergers commission, now renamed the competition commission.

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