The recent Office of Fair Trading (OFT) ruling that the UK's two largest tobacco companies colluded with large retailers to set the price of products could damage their relationships with the independent trade, retailers have told C-Store.

The OFT said Imperial Tobacco and Gallaher, now owned by JTI, had been engaged in unlawful practices in relation to retail prices for tobacco products with 10 retail chains between 2001 and 2003. Fines totalled £225m.

Those involved were: Asda; The Co-operative Group; Sainsbury's; First Quench; Morrisons; One Stop Stores (now owned by Tesco); Safeway; Shell; Somerfield (now owned by the Co-op) ; and TM Retail (now Martin McColl).

One independent retailer from Coventry said he was "bitterly disappointed" by the case. "The independent trade looks to these big companies for help and category advice, so I feel really let down by these allegations.

"To hear of these goings-on is disheartening and damaging to relationships," he added.

Imperial Tobacco, which was given a fine of £112m by the OFT, is challenging the ruling.