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Cars Tesco found guilty of illegal property deals to lock out competition

20:20  14 february  2020
20:20  14 february  2020 Source:   inews.co.uk

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a sign in front of a building © Provided by The i

The UK’s largest supermarket Tesco has been found guilty of breaching competition law after leaning on retail property landlords not to rent nearby sites to rivals for up to a decade.

In a stinging attack on Tesco, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said Tesco’s actions may have reduced competition and lowered choice leaving shoppers worse off.

Tescos actions were unlawful under the Groceries Market Investigation (Controlled Land) Order 2010.

'Shoppers could have lost out'

Andrea Gomes da Silva, the CMA's head of markets and mergers, said: "It's unacceptable that Tesco had these unlawful restrictions in place for up to a decade. By making it harder for other supermarkets to open stores next to its branches, shoppers could have lost out."

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"In the future, we want the ability to fine businesses if we find that they are in breach of our orders. That's why we've called on the Government for more powers."

After being contacted by the CMA in 2018, Tesco found that there were problems in 23 of its 5,354 land agreements. The supermarket claimed its illegal actions were down to “administrative errors”.

The stores where Tesco broke the law

Victoria Street, Hednesford Unit K Croft Retail Park, Bromborough Unit 5 West Durrington Centre, Worthing Horton Retail Centre, Epsom Great Suffolk Street, London Mile End Road, London Oxford Road, Reading Chester Road, Northwich Rushey Green, London Wolseley Road, Plymouth Wellingborough Road, Northampton Pencoed, Mid-Glamorgan Saxmunden Road, Aldeburgh Askew Road, Shepherd’s Bush Fore Street, Edmonton Goodmayes Road, Rowallan Stainland Road, Halifax College Road, Harrow High Road, Kilburn Ladbroke Grove, London New Cavendish Street, London High Street, Penge Brentwood Road, Romford

Tesco claims admin errors

In a letter to Tesco boss Dave Lewis, Ms da Silva said that for a company of its scale and resources, Tesco had shown "significant shortcomings".

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The letter stated: “As you know, the Order was put in place in 2010 to stop grocery retailers benefitting from long exclusivity arrangements and restrictive covenants. It is therefore concerning to have found that Tesco breached the Order on 23 occasions between 2010 and July 2015, and that while Tesco had implemented processes and controls to ensure compliance with the Order, these were not always sufficiently robust.”

"We do not use restrictive property agreements,” Tesco said. “However, in a small number of historic cases between 2010-15, administrative errors by former advisers meant that our internal processes were not followed correctly.

"As the CMA recognises, we have worked collaboratively in resolving this, and our voluntary review of 5,354 land deals found isolated issues in just 0.4 per cent of these. We have since strengthened our controls and training, and are releasing the affected parties from all non-compliant terms."

The CMA said it has written to Asda,Co-op, Marks & Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsbury and Waitrose to demand proof they have not committed similar breaches. It will consider taking action if any are not compliant.

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