CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale, has today announced it will issue a legal challenge to the Office of Fair Trading’s decision to reject its super-complaint on anti-competitive practices in the UK pub market. CAMRA is pledging funds to the appeal, but is depending on consumers helping to raise further funds to ensure this vital legal challenge can stand the best chance of success.
In October the consumer group criticised the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) for failing to protect consumers by taking no further action to address consumer detriment in the pub market following CAMRA’s super-complaint submitted in July.
Under the Enterprise Act 2002, CAMRA is entitled to appeal the OFT’s decision to the Competition Appeals Tribunal, and has decided upon this course of action to continue fighting anti-competitive practices in the UK pub market.
From Tuesday January 5th 2010, CAMRA is calling upon consumers to visit the CAMRA website (www.camra.org.uk) and contribute to the ‘Consumers v. OFT Pub Market Ruling’ Campaign Fund.
Mike Benner, CAMRA Chief Executive, said:
‘CAMRA has taken the decision to appeal due to the inability of the OFT to deal with the problems affecting the UK pub sector.
‘CAMRA’s super-complaint to the OFT was based on securing a fair deal for the pub-goer, and building a sustainable future for Britain ’s pubs. However, we believe the OFT did not take reasonable steps to understand the pub sector, and more generally why over 50 pubs are closing per week across the UK .
‘We’ve seen the consumer watchdog scrutinised in previous years with the success of the Association of Convenience Stores’ appeal in 2005 in overturning the OFT’s decision at Tribunal. Pending the success of our appeal, CAMRA remains optimistic of Government intervention or a referral to the Competition Commission for a full investigation into the UK pub market.’
Bob Young, a former member of the Monopolies and Mergers Commission and respected Principal of Europe Economics, has said the OFT’s response was “as inadequate as CAMRA’s super-complaint was compelling. The OFT has not seriously considered whether there is fair competition at a local level which ensures that consumers, or pub landlords for that matter, get the best deal. This is a critical shortcoming in the OFT’s response to CAMRA.”
Mike Benner concluded:
‘We now urge consumers and associated trade bodies to get behind our ‘Consumers v. OFT Pub Market Ruling’ Campaign Fund in the New Year and support our appeal.’
CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale, is a not for profit, independent consumer organisation which campaigns for real ale, real pubs and consumer rights. CAMRA currently has over 107,000 consumers as members.
CAMRA’s super-complaint, ‘A Fair Share for the Consumer’, was published in July and can be viewed at www.camra.org.uk/supercomplaint
CAMRA’s super-complaint centred on the need to reform beer tie arrangements to prevent large companies exploiting tie arrangements that prevent tied publicans from buying beer on the open market at fair prices. CAMRA argued that the wholesale prices paid by tied publicans are considerably higher, around £20,000 per year for an average pub, than would prevail in a competitive market. The lack of competition, particularly in areas dominated by tied pub companies, mean that consumers pay higher prices, and suffer a reduced quality of experience and a restricted range of products. CAMRA has calculated that if beer prices had only risen in line with inflation since 1990 then collectively consumers would be better off by £2.5 billion a year.