The Office of Fair Trading’s (OFT) draft opinion on the newspaper and magazine distribution chain has been met with disappointment by retailers. In its long-awaited draft opinion on the news industry the OFT said the current system of exclusive wholesaler territories for distribution of newspapers throughout the UK was broadly compatible with EC and UK competition law. However, in the case of magazines, the OFT said the current ban on ‘unsolicited requests’ for supplies from outside exclusive territories should be lifted. Association of News Retailing (ANR) managing director John Lennon believes the OFT’s decision will create only limited opportunities for retailers.

He said: “The OFT’s opinion throws up some positive results but not as many as we would have liked. For example, more retailers may find opportunities through passive selling, while on the back of the OFT’s emphasising of the industry’s current code of practice on news supply, the supply of newspapers to even the smallest newsagents has been ensured.”

However, Lennon also acknowledged the OFT had not gone far enough in giving retailers choice of supply and that “the competition injected into magazine distribution was only a very small step in the right direction toward retailer choice”.

Lennon confirmed the ANR would continue to campaign for a system that delivers more choice, efficiency and good practice throughout the news supply chain, and would be submitting a formal response to the OFT’s draft opinion.

The OFT has initiated a consultation period, which ends on June 17, prior to issuing a final opinion during the summer.