GOVERNMENT plans to investigate the ways in which the four big supermarket chains are allegedly "strangling" small shops and forcing farmers out of business were given a hearty welcome at the weekend by the Country Land and Business Association.
The Office of Fair Trading announced last Thursday that it would carry out yet another investigation over fears that the supermarkets, finding it difficult to get planning permission for future out-of-town superstores, are now planning to open hundreds of smaller "convenience" shops on the nation's High Streets.
Countryside group welcomes supermarket investigation
These plans have raised great fears amongst small, local shopkeepers - many thousands of whom have already been forced out of business - and for conservationists who fear that the country's small towns are being "cloned" so that they all look alike.
At risk are many small market towns like Skipton, Settle and Hawes, where High Streets are becoming a haven to national chains, charity shops, opticians, estate agents - and very little else.
The CLA has been campaigning against the supermarket explosion for many years because they have relentlessly forced down the prices they pay to their produce suppliers. The chains did offer a voluntary code of conduct on fair pricing some three years ago after another OFT investigation - but reneged on the deal within a matter of months, the CLA alleges.
Carole Hodgson, CLA North's Assistant Regional Director said: "We are pleased that the OFT has finally agreed to take a fresh look at this issue.
" Retailer dominance of the food supply chain and the big supermarkets' continued abuse of their market position through the use of pricing mechanisms such as below-cost selling and price flexing by large discounts are offered against local rivals are of great concern to our members, who prefer to provide quality local produce rather than high quantities of cheap food."
The CLA has been gathering evidence of such alleged abuses over the years and will hand it over to the new investigation.
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