The Association of Convenience Stores has launched a massive campaign aimed at pushing the OFT into conducting an inquiry into the state of the UK grocery market.

With legal support from Friends of the Earth and backing from farmers’ pressure group FARM and The National Federation of Women’s Institutes, ACS has submitted a formal request for a market study.

ACS public affairs manager James Lowman said the last inquiry into the market, by the Competition Commission in 2000, had already found practices that were against the public interest, and that the situation had worsened considerably since then with consolidation concentrating even more financial power into just four major multiples.

Issues they were raising included below cost selling, price flexing, the move by two of the big four into the neighbourhood market and the way the competition authorities define the grocery market.

The ACS was also calling for a moratorium on further takeovers by the big four while such an inquiry was undertaken.

Lowman said they had been helped in the preparation of the document by the FoE’s legal team, and this was the first time they had tried this approach with the OFT.

He explained although ACS has called for a study before, it has always been in the context of an inquiry into the takeover of a c-store chain, and because of the tight regulations constraining the OFT in such cases, it was unlikely to look at the overall market.

Lowman said he was optimistic this new approach would work and it would be backed up by strong political pressure.
MPs from the all party small shops group will be making representations to the OFT and ACS members will be lobbying their constituency MPs to get involved.

He said: “There is increasing awareness among MPs, civil servants and ministers that unfettered supermarket power could harm consumers’ interests.”