The two main newsagents' trade associations could be on collision course after the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) announced that it would consider referring the newspapers and magazines supply market to the Competition Commission (CC) for a market investigation.
In October 2006 the OFT received a request from the National Federation of Retail Newsagents (NFRN) that the market be investigated under the Enterprise Act 2002. However, the Association of News Retailing (ANR), the news arm of the Association of Convenience Stores, has warned that a CC inquiry could detract from the objective of achieving a more open supply chain.
ANR managing director John Lennon told C-Store: "We are not convinced that a Competition Commission inquiry would help retailers, and indeed it may delay progress on this important issue."
The OFT said it would consider a referral to the CC after completion of the current investigations, which include a Draft Opinion on newspaper and magazine distribution and a review of the National Newspapers Code of Practice.
However, NFRN trade relations manager David Daniel said that in requesting a review under the Enterprise Act, NFRN was not necessarily asking to refer the industry to the CC.
"We believe the best way forward is an all-inclusive industry Code of Practice that would guarantee standards of service with key performance measures, more say for retailers in supply volumes, more stringent enforcement and an industry-funded Ombudsman," he said.
He added that the OFT had the power to legally enforce the improved Code Of Practice.
ANR's Lennon disagreed with the NFRN assessment. "Existing OFT reviews on the Newspaper Code of Practice and the use of Absolute Territorial Protection offer enough opportunity to achieve our objective of retail choice," he said.