Asda has clubbed together with AOL's European arm to purchase a stake in ShopSmart.com, one of the UK's top retail sites. In a matter of months, cybershoppers in the UK and Germany will be able to log on to AOL and compare the prices of consumer goods on a pan European scale through a ShopSmart link. An Asda spokesman told The Grocer: "The Competition Commission has been looking at ways of making prices more transparent. This goes some way to remedy that." At the moment, visitors to ShopSmart can only compare prices on goods such as CDs, video games and books. But PR manager Alison Crombie said the new deal meant the company could "start expanding the range of products for comparison". But she admitted trying to provide accurate pricing data on groceries could prove a "logistical nightmare". Asda's Valuemad price comparison site will be absorbed by ShopSmart and integrated into AOL UK, which will promote the chain as a preferred food and drink retailer. Free disks providing shoppers with AOL net access will be distributed in Asda stores in the UK and Wal-Mart stores in Germany. Gaining access to AOL's army of online shoppers will increase Wal-Mart's presence in Europe significantly, said the retailer's spokesman. ShopSmart finance director Nicholas Lovell has played down fears that the deal will give Wal-Mart an unfair advantage over its competitors. Price comparisons between online retailers would remain impartial, he insisted. "Wal-Mart will not be given preferential treatment." {{NEWS }}

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