Small shops leaders have accused the Competition Commission's grocery inquiry team of underestimating the impact of supermarket voucher promotions on independents. The Association of Convenience Stores claims the vouchers, offering deep discounts on shopping and often distributed to householders on a local basis, threaten the livelihoods of retailers that don't have deep pockets like the multiples. Earlier this year, Scarborough-based independent grocer the Proudfoot Group said it was forced to sell its Withernsea store to Aldi as sales had never recovered from the impact of a 40%-off voucher sent by Tesco to residents of the town in 2004. In another famous case, Tesco sent out vouchers offering 30% off shopping at its Ludlow store for two weeks preceding and following the opening of a new Harry Tuffins. In its latest working paper, the Commission said it had looked at the evidence available - including the Proudfoot case - but had seen "no evidence to date to indicate that these vouchers were issued systematically with any intention beyond that of normal local competitive behaviour". But the ACS insisted it had submitted several specific examples where major retailers had deliberately targeted small retailers with vouchering schemes. A spokesman for the Commission said the paper was simply a summary of the evidence presented and no definitive conclusions had yet been reached. The ACS said it was also concerned the Commission had not undertaken a full analysis of why no large new store had been built by an independent operator since 2000 - despite the multiples developing at a rate of two large stores per week. The Commission's latest working paper recognised that no-one but the major national chains had built a large store since 2000 - but did not state this represented evidence of a barrier to entry. "There are still some fundamental issues the Competition Commission has not grasped properly," said ACS chief executive James Lowman.ACS calls for below-cost ban Below-cost selling of alcohol during last year's World Cup by the big four amounted to £112.7m worth of sales, according to the Competition Commission. Below-cost selling of beer and lager totalled £62.1m, while wine and spirits accounted for £50.6m of sales. The Commission said it carried out the analysis because it was "interested in the effects below-cost selling had on competition and would continue to investigate". The ACS has urged the Commission to ban below-cost selling in supermarkets. "The World Cup is a key selling time for the sale of alcohol," said an ACS spokesman. "Below-cost selling of alcohol during this time closes the market and undermines the ability of smaller retailers to compete against the supermarkets."