Clive Beddall, John Wood Fighting their corner in the Competition Commission's profitability probe is likely to have cost the major multiples over £20m, according to estimates given to The Grocer on Thursday. A senior director of one of the top four said: "It's been a futile inquiry and it was a colossal waste of money for all concerned. It's a bloodbath in the high street." None of the chains would reveal their individual bills. Meanwhile Competition Commission chairman Derek Morris has defended the 16 month length of the probe, saying it had been "very fast and very cost effective" considering the number of issues involved. He said the inquiry had cost £3.4m. It had taken submissions from more than 200 bodies and there had been more than 50 hearings. The Commission's report ­ all three tomes of it crashed on to Stephen Byers' desk on Monday ­ amid mounting, media inspired suspicions the minister will not give the multiples a completely clean bill of health, despite an earlier Commission view there was no evidence of excessive profiteering. On Thursday some Whitehall sources were suggesting the multiples could be given a "short, sharp shock" when Stephen Byers finally delivers his verdict. However, despite the CC remaining tightlipped, newspapers, tv commentators and radio programmes have had a field day pouring out a torrent of "informed information." Among the favourite verdicts, as reported in our special feature last weekend, are that Byers will force the introduction of a trading code for dealing with suppliers, force cost prices to be displayed on shelf edges alongside retail prices, force the multiples to display their cost prices on the internet and make some of the major retailers dispose of some certain sites to allow their rivals to move in. But while Byers may use the Labour conference in Brighton to bash the retailers, and thus attempt to claw back credibility for the government inspired Rip-off Britain campaign, it's likely the criticism will be softer than might have been envisaged when the probe began. Ironically, the idea he may enforce a trading code on the multiples resurfaced just as Asda, Morrisons, Safeway, Sainsbury, Somerfield and Tesco delivered a new all industry code to minister of agriculture Nick Brown. But despite IGD claims it's flexible enough to take into account the impact of the new Competition Act as well as the "fast moving nature of the food industry," it's been dismissed by some City analysts as "more spin than substance". However, IGD chief executive Joanne Denney said: "The code is a great achievement and credit must be given to the retailers in drawing it up. They are, after all, operating in a fiercely competitive market." l See Opinion, page 14. {{NEWS }}