Most independent retailers stocking newspapers and magazines have sold more than ever this year, but wholesalers are still not delivering on service levels to shop owners questioned in our latest survey.

And seven out of ten retailers questioned felt that they wouldn't get a better deal even if they got to choose the wholesalers they wanted. "Competition in any area is usually a good thing, but I can't see it making any difference in this case," said one Hampshire-based shop owner. "There is only one wholesaler to go to that makes any sense for us."

This was the case in many other areas across the country with retailers saying that two wholesalers had been replaced by one in their areas in the past few years anyway.

This survey follows the recent OFT draft opinion, published in June and under consultation until 1 September. The document said the current arrangements that award local monopolies to wholesalers could harm consumers and may be difficult to justify in terms of competition law.

Eight out of ten shop owners questioned were not satisfied with the quality of communication from magazine wholesalers. "You can't believe a word they say," said one retailer in the north east. "They make all sorts of promises but never follow it through, which is why I am on the phone to them most days."

Others agreed. One admitted that it took a lot of time to manage the category. Others said that magazine wholesalers were better than many newspaper distributors, who had got progressively worse over the years.

Nearly 40% felt the service they received from magazine wholesalers had got worse in the past year. Half of respondents felt service levels had remained the same in the same period. Only one in ten felt it had improved.

When given a choice of naming the one biggest problem in distribution, most retailers questioned cited carriage charges, closely followed by the cost of returns. "I know one shop owner in our area who gets up at 3am to collect the papers for his three shops every day," said one retailer who, although upset by carriage charges, was not prepared to go to the same lengths to avoid them.

Incomplete deliveries were not such a problem for retailers in our survey but late deliveries were still registering at nearly 20%. "My paper boys have to be at school on time and deliveries coming to me at 8am is no good to anyone," said one. "I do free deliveries on all 12 rounds, which is why I am selling more papers and more magazines, so the least they can do is support me," said another.