The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has opened a surprise consultation on its decision to reject the Campaign for Real Ale's (Camra) super-complaint regarding the beer-tie, as the two bodies attempt to avoid litigation costs.
The decision follows Camra's decision to apply for a review of the decision before the Competition Appeal Tribunal.
The OFT said that it had decided it would be a "more constructive use of resources" if Camra and other interested groups could make representations about the OFT's decision in a consultaiton, which helps both the OFT and the association avoid expensive litigation.
As a result, the two bodies have agreed to adjourn appeal proceedings until 1 August 2010.
Camra originally submitted its super-complaint, calling for reform of the beer-tie and excessive rents, in July last year. It claims that anti-competitive practices are inflating pub beer prices by around 50p a pint, restricting consumer choice and leading to "chronic underinvestment" in the nation’s pubs. But in October the OFT rejected it, saying that it found no evidence that beer supply ties were resulting in competition problems.
Today the OFT said that it it believe it had "a firm basis" to defend Camra's appeal. But it would "carefully consider any further representations and evidence received during the course of the consultation process".
Mike Benner, Camra chief executive, welcomed the move. "We are delighted that the OFT has responded to our appeal by agreeing to conduct an open consultation and I encourage all parties to use this opportunity to submit further evidence of anti-competitive practice. The consultation will lead to a new and final decision from the OFT. We are hopeful that on re-examination of the pubs market the OFT will decide to act against anti-competitive behaviour in order to deliver a fair deal for consumers. Camra looks forward to working with the OFT to deliver reform of the beer tie so that the pub market works in the interests of consumers," he said.
Written views on the OFT's super-complaint need to be submitted to the OFT by 5pm on 24 March 2010 to
Camra Super-complaint Team
Office of Fair Trading
2-6 Salisbury Square
or email CAMRAsuperemail@example.com
By Neil Gerrard
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