Supermarkets confirm OFT probeReports say OFT checking beauty and food prices

28 April 2008

A woman pushes a shopping trolley around a supermarket.

Major supermarket chains have confirmed that they had received visits from the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), which is said to be investigating allegations of price fixing.

The SundayTelegraph reported that Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury's and Morrisons were among companies targeted as part of an investigation into price fixing in groceries and health and beauty products.

The consumer watchdog is said to have seized hundreds of emails between retailers and their suppliers, who were apparently also visited, during Thursday's 'surprise raids'.

Office of Fair Trading

The OFT declined to comment. A spokeswoman said: 'We never comment on investigations.'

A Tesco spokeswoman said: 'We understand that the OFT has asked for information from a wide range of suppliers and retailers. We are working with them to provide what they require.

'At Tesco we are confident that we always act in the interest of consumers. Indeed over the last 10 years we have saved the average family almost £5,000 as a result of our investment in price.'

Asda, Morrisons, Sainsbury's

A spokesman for Asda said: 'They came to our offices. They requested a range of information, and we were happy to assist.'

A spokesman for Morrisons said: 'I can confirm that they did visit us - along with many others - and we will be co-operating with them.'

A spokeswoman for Sainsbury's said: 'We are co-operating with the OFT. We have been asked for some information and we don't have any further knowledge of what their concerns are.'

Tobacco probe

The development comes just two days after it emerged that 11 major retailers and two tobacco manufacturers are facing an OFT investigation over allegations of unlawful cigarette pricing practices.

Tobacco giants Imperial Tobacco and Gallaher were named alongside chains including Tesco, Sainsbury's and Asda in a 'statement of objections' issued by the OFT.

The watchdog has accused the groups of anti-competitive pricing in a period spanning 2000 to 2003.

Clampdown

The OFT has had an increasing clampdown recently on anti-trust activity. A week before, it announced a major inquiry into alleged price-fixing in the construction industry.

Sainsbury's added in a statement: 'We have been asked for some information regarding a number of suppliers and product categories and are helping the OFT with their inquiries. We do not have any further knowledge of the details of their concerns.'

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