CAMRA to take OFT to court23rd December, 2009 by Alan Lodge
The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) has vowed to mount a legal challenge over the Office of Fair Trading’s decision to reject its super-complaint on anti-competitive practices in the UK pub market.
The consumer group criticised the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) back in October for failing to act in the best interests of consumers by taking no further action to address consumer detriment in the pub market following CAMRA’s super-complaint submitted in July.
Under the Enterprise Act 2002, CAMRA is entitled to appeal the OFT’s decision to the Competition Appeals Tribunal.
From Tuesday 5 January 2010, CAMRA is calling on pub-goers to visit the CAMRA website and contribute to the ‘Consumers v. OFT Pub Market Ruling’ Campaign Fund.
News of the impending legal action came at the end of a volatile year in the UK pub sector, with venues closing at an average rate of over 50 per week amid falling sales, rising prices, a decline in the number of customers and a simmering row over the introduction of a Mandatory Code for alcohol retailing.
Mike Benner, CAMRA chief executive, said: “CAMRA has taken the decision to appeal due to the inability of the OFT to deal with the problems affecting the UK pub sector.
“CAMRA’s super-complaint to the OFT was based on securing a fair deal for the pub-goer, and building a sustainable future for Britain’s pubs. However, we believe the OFT did not take reasonable steps to understand the pub sector, and more generally why over 50 pubs are closing per week across the UK.
“We’ve seen the consumer watchdog scrutinised in previous years with the success of the Association of Convenience Stores’ appeal in 2005 in overturning the OFT’s decision at Tribunal.
“Pending the success of our appeal, CAMRA remains optimistic of Government intervention or a referral to the Competition Commission for a full investigation into the UK pub market.”
Bob Young, a former member of the Monopolies and Mergers Commission and Principal of Europe Economics, said the OFT’s response was “as inadequate as CAMRA’s super-complaint was compelling.”
Young said: “The OFT has not seriously considered whether there is fair competition at a local level which ensures that consumers, or pub landlords for that matter, get the best deal. This is a critical shortcoming in the OFT’s response to CAMRA."
Benner added: “We now urge consumers and associated trade bodies to get behind our ‘Consumers v. OFT Pub Market Ruling’ Campaign Fund in the New Year and support our appeal.”
Alan Lodge, 23.12.2009