Clive Beddall & Tony Brown The Competition Commission looks set to put its controversial supermarket profitability inquiry on track for an early conclusion after it published a list of "hypothetical remedies" for problems which have not yet been established. In an unusual move, the CC has sent letters to Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury, Safeway and Morrisons setting out "possible remedies" for the industry and asking them for their views. This astonished analysts. One told The Grocer: "This seems an amazing way for the Commission to act. It's like letting students see the exam questions two weeks before the test. It's clear the CC is bringing its deadlines forward. The whole probe has been an embarrassment and it now seems to be saying that it wants shot of it." Although the letter stresses it is examining an "entirely hypothetical" scenario at the moment, the five multiples will be expected to answer the Commission's questions in "behind closed doors" meetings in March. Along with the suggestion that supermarkets could be forced to sell off local stores where they are found to operate local monopolies, the letter also suggests supermarkets might be forced to agree to a code of conduct for their treatment of suppliers. Improvements might also be made in the way in which prices are displayed, such as posting them on the internet, and it is suggested separating out the profits the retailers make from selling petrol. But David Reid, Tesco deputy chairman, said he was not worried by the new proposals: "The remedies letter is trying to be helpful in the interests of getting the enquiry over with as quickly as possible. "The Commission is talking about the effect of local monopolies. But our studies show 85% of people can reach three or four different stores within 15 minutes driving time and 70% have at least six stores to choose from. "We are confident our submissions to the enquiry will be entirely satisfactory." Sainsbury's managing director David Bremner thinly concealed a tone of irritation at the time and energy the Commission was demanding from the company. He said: "This letter changes nothing. It is wrong to dwell on remedies before identifying the problem. Today's free market ensures a better deal for customers than any State intervention." The Big Five will be expected to answer Commission questions in "behind closed doors" scheduled for March and early April. See analysis, page 18. {{NEWS }}