Is it only me who finds the provisional findings on pricing in the Competition Commission's groceries inquiry incomprehensible ('The beginning of the end?', The Grocer, 3 November, p4)? For the second time in seven years it has concluded that a differential cost price being charged to wholesalers versus the big four of about 13% is not a barrier to competition. Gross margins for most independents are about 21%, while it is assumed the multiples achieve an overall margin in excess of 27%. Net margins are 1% for independents who wish to have any chance to compete, versus 5-6% in the big four. The independent sector also has to consider the shared margin of wholesaler and retailer, where we can assume wholesale gross margins of 6.5% and net of 1%. With net margins at these low levels, how can it be credible to say a 13% differential is not detrimental to competition? One of the commission's conclusions is that small stores do not act as a competitive constraint on big ones - not surprising with these inequalities! The ACS and the FWD argue the current differentials are not based on economic factors but abuse of buyer power. Tesco, as the biggest purchaser, may justify a differential but it should be 0.5%-1% - not the economically unjustifiable 13%. The only sensible answer is true transparency of cost price, net of all discounts and a ban on below-cost selling. A regulator in the mould of Ofgen should be introduced to arbitrate on this principle. These innovations would remove the abuse of buyer power and reintroduce genuine competition.