Page last updated at 14:29 GMT, Friday, 24 July 2009 15:29 UK

Ale group seeks pub trade probe

Pint of beer
Pubs are suffering in the recession

The Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) has complained to trading watchdogs about alleged anti-competitive pub practices which it says are forcing up prices.

Camra has said that pubs are suffering because of high rents and arrangements that oblige pub landlords to take beer supplies only from pub owners.

It added that reform of these practices was needed to reduce drinks prices and "save the pub from extinction".

The Office of Fair Trading will now investigate the complaint.

Earlier this week, the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) said UK pubs closed at a rate of 52 per week in the first half of the year - a third more than the same period in 2008.

The recession, rising alcohol duty and the smoking ban have hit pubs.

Pub firms argue that they need to have some hold over the running of their outlets, so that they can make a profit.

High prices

But Camra said that many pub landlords are being forced to pay over the odds for beer because of "tie" arrangements with pub-owning companies that prevent them from buying beer on the open market.

"Pub-owning companies are able to earn excessive profits by increasing the cost of beer to their 'tied' pub landlords who have no choice but to accept high prices and pass them onto the consumer," said Mike Benner, chief executive of Camra.

"Reform of the 'beer tie' along with a framework of support from government is urgently required to save the pub from extinction," he added.

Camra added that the rents charged to these pub landlords should take into account the fact that they cannot buy beer on the open market.

Camra also criticised pub firms selling sites with restrictive clauses stating that they should no longer be used as pubs.

The OFT said it will consider the issues raised by Camra to see whether the interests of consumers are being significantly harmed. It will respond to the complaint within 90 days.

Camra's move follows a May report from MPs on the Business and Enterprise Select Committee, which also called for the industry to be investigated.

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