Competition Law Enforcement in the U.K. Grocery and Food Sectors and at the EU Level

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Mark Jones, Jun 30, 2014

In recent years the U.K. grocery and food industries have been among the most scrutinized sectors by the U.K. competition authorities. This article reports on competition law enforcement activity in the United Kingdom under the antitrust rules and also the so-called market investigation regime (merger control is outside its scope). It ends with a brief review of initiatives in these sectors at the EU level.

Enforcement activity in the United Kingdom has focused mainly on grocery markets rather than upstream food markets, although the U.K. competition authorities have issued guidance on the application of competition law to farming co-operatives as well as informal views on two dairy industry codes of practice. They have also promoted the competition agenda in the development and reform of EU farming regulation under the EU Common Agricultural Policy and the EU Dairy Package Regulation.

The U.K. antitrust rules prohibit cartels and other anticompetitive arrangements, and also the abuse of a dominant market position. There have been several significant investigations under the cartel rules, but the prohibition on abuse of dominance has not been applied in these sectors since even the largest of the four major U.K. supermarket chains has a national market share below the level at which a dominant position is normally established. There have been two major sector-wide investigations…

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