Every so often I get asked to clarify the rules on stocking stuff other than Coke in branded Coca-Cola coolers. The latest query comes from Rod Oakford who runs Mottram Road Post Office at Stalybridge in Greater Manchester. He writes by email: "Could you confirm when the EC ruling on Coca-Cola coolers became operative? We have a cooler for which we pay £27.50 per quarter for 'own use' of the bottom two shelves. After numerous calls to Coca-Cola since the topic was raised in Convenience Store, we have just received a new contract for a 'free' cooler but Coca-Cola says that we will be charged for the cooler up to the date of the new contract."

As many will recall, the European Union brokered a deal (in 2004) whereby Coca-Cola agreed to allow competitors' products 20% of the shelf space in its branded fridges. As a result of this agreement the EU agreed to drop its investigation into the drinks company. The undertakings, to which Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE) agreed, actually came into play in 2005.

What a lot of people don't realise is that there are special qualifying conditions attached to this undertaking whereby retailers are allowed to give the bottom two shelves over to rival products. If you have more than one cooler of any sort in your store you do not qualify.

Paul Meadows, in CCE's corporate affairs department and part of the legal team, told me: "When the rep first visits a store he will offer three options. Zero rental means that retailers must stock only our products with that very narrow exception where ours is the only cooler in the store. Another option is rental. For £27.50 per quarter, retailers can take 20% of the space in the cooler for 'own use'. And finally, they can buy it outright and then have the advantage of a branded cooler but can stock whatever they like in it." I don't know yet whether Rod qualifies for zero rental/own use by virtue of having only one cooler - quite possible in a small post office. CCE has agreed to review the situation regarding rental charges if this turns out to be the case.