Waitrose web

Waitrose has admitted having property deals that prevent rival supermarkets from opening stores nearby, in breach of competition rules.

The supermarket has agreed to remove so-called restrictive covenants from its land deals following an investigation by the Competition & Markets Authority.

Waitrose has admitted to seven breaches of competition rules on supermarket property deals between 2010 and 2019.

“It’s disappointing that Waitrose has acted against the interests of shoppers, despite these rules having been in place for over 10 years,” said CMA senior director of remedies Adam Land.

“Families across the UK are facing the rising cost of living,” he added. “Preventing other supermarkets from opening new stores could stop people saving on their weekly shop.

“Waitrose is now putting this right so that everyone gets a fair deal. We will continue to take action when our rules are broken, and we have asked all supermarkets to show us their land deals comply with the order.”

In a letter to Waitrose, Land said: “In my view, these breaches demonstrate significant shortcomings in compliance for a company of Waitrose’s size and standing.”

Read more: Locked out: behind the supermarket restrictive covenant scandal

The breaches came after the CMA asked major supermarkets for evidence their land deals did not contain the banned restrictions. The authority wrote to Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Asda, Co-op, Waitrose and M&S in February 2020, after finding that Tesco had breached the rules.

The CMA said its assessment of land deals held by supermarkets other than Waitrose was ongoing.

The seven breaches by Waitrose were in relation to stores in Bromsgrove, Rustington, Swindon, Daventry, Chester, Notting Hill Gate and Market Harborough.

A Waitrose spokesman said: “We’ve identified and addressed a small number of historic errors, but don’t believe we’ve enforced these to stop new shops opening. All of these branches are closely surrounded by other supermarkets, offering plenty of choice for customers.

“We’ve worked closely with the CMA and have now strengthened our internal processes.”