SIR; In his interview last week (The Grocer, December 10, p32) new OFT chief executive John Fingleton said: “We would never want to refer something to the Competition Commission if there was not a problem.”
Those of us who had a day out at the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) in November might wonder if this statement amounts to insufficient reasoning by the OFT.
The OFT is required by UK competition law to make a market investigation reference to the Competition Commission where it has reasonable grounds to suspect features of a market are distorting competition.
Moreover, the OFT is required to apply the principles of the Enforcement Concordat to its work on market investigation references, particularly to ensure that markets work well for fair dealing companies.
The independent sector has long argued we are dealing with complex, finely balanced economic arguments but that the reasonable suspicion test is well exceeded on the basis of recent events in the sector.
Fingleton should be aware of the OFT’s guidance under the Enterprise Act. Where there is uncertainty on the part of the OFT, it should leave the weighing of benefits and detriments of matters to the Commission.
Fingleton is perhaps entitled to a honeymoon period, but there is an obligation ‘ab initio’ to be seen to be going about his duties with an open mind. Otherwise, there is no doubt a willingness on the part of the independent sector, to take the matter straight back to the CAT.