Somerfield’s acquisition of 115 stores from Morrisons damages competition in 14 areas of the UK, the Competition Commission has provisionally found.

In a statement released this morning, the commission said that the stores “may be expected to result in a substantial lessening of competition in 14 local grocery retail markets.”

The areas were Bedlington, Filey, Johnstone, Kelso, Littlehampton, Middlesbrough Linthorpe, Newark, Paisley, Peebles, Pocklington, Poole Bearwood, South Shields, Whitburn and Yarm.

Christopher Clarke, chairman of the inquiry, said: “We identified stores in 14 areas where we have provisionally found that the acquisition is expected significantly to reduce competition resulting in higher prices, or reductions in quality, range or service.”

“We believe the only effective means of restoring competition in these areas is for the identified stores to be sold to a suitable grocery retailer who will offer choice and actively compete in the relevant local markets.”

Somerfield and other interested parties have until August 16 to respond to the provisional findings before the commission takes its final decision.