SIR; I was alarmed to read in The Grocer that Office of Fair Trading chief executive John Fingleton is yet to be convinced of the case for an inquiry into supermarket dominance (The Grocer, December 10, p32).
The Forum of Private Business, which represents 25,000 small to medium-sized companies, believes that the case for an inquiry is irrefutable - and Fingleton is ignoring the overwhelming pressures on small businesses.
Firstly, the high street is in crisis. More than 20,000 local shops have gone bust since 1997. A thorough investigation is required to examine many of the anti-competitive practices of the supermarkets which are crippling the independents.
Furthermore, it is clear that it was a glaring misjudgment to allow supermarkets to get into the convenience store market, where they are now using their enormous buying power to dominate the sector.
Secondly, the supermarkets’ bully-boy treatment of suppliers is the industry’s worst-kept secret. It is no longer acceptable for the OFT to turn a blind eye to the appalling abuse of small businesses that need that organisation’s protection.
Thirdly, it has becoming apparent that the supermarkets are driving a bulldozer through the planning system.
Cash-strapped councils are being intimidated into accepting planning applications for big stores and fear becoming embroiled in lengthy and expensive planning appeals.
Although the points we make here are only the tip of the iceberg with regard to this market, it is crystal clear to us that there is an urgent need for the OFT to wake up and order a Competition Commission inquiry as soon as possible.