In its remedies statement last week as part of the Safeway merger inquiry, the Commission missed an opportunity to redefine the grocery market as one single entity.
Surely as people who shop members of the Commission are aware that supermarkets are top-up outlets just like any local independent retailer defined as a c-store. Working on the Commission's initial mistake, the Office of Fair Trading then allowed the recent takeover of T&S by Tesco, a giant superstore corporation, on the basis that it had only a small share of the convenience market. This decision defies belief.
More errors will develop from the Commission's two markets' ruling. Sainsbury, for example, could acquire Somerfield while the OFT works on the two markets' basis and, therefore, is impotent. The Commission and the OFT have given Tesco an 800-store estate, a new threat for every independent served by wholesalers and one which, anecdotally, is beginning to bite.
We now have an Office of Unfair Trading through no fault of its own. The Commission can introduce reality at a stroke of the pen.