Commission opens door to shoppers on Safeway

Consumers will be able to have their say on a retail sector takeover for the first time when, this Wednesday, the Competition Commission holds an open hearing on Safeway.

Although members of the public have been invited to meetings in the past on proposed deals, such as the Lloyds-TSB's bid for Abbey National, no retail deal has been opened up in this way.

As Retail Week went to press, only one consumer had registered to attend.

However, about 40 had contacted the Commission to express views - 'more than you'd expect in a merger inquiry', a spokesman for the Commission said.

Most were worried about consumer choice locally and the possibility of job losses. Some feared that too much grocery power would be concentrated in too few hands if a deal went ahead.

Morrisons and three other potential bidders - Tesco, Wal-Mart and Sainsbury's - will make presentations. The other would-be buyer, Philip Green, has already been given a go-ahead to bid.

Friends of the Earth and the NFU will also make presentations, and members of the public will be able to speak from the floor.

Leading grocer Tesco said it would produce a summary of the hearing and its case for its consumers.

A spokesman said he did not expect many members of the public to show up on the day, but welcomed the attempt to make the process more transparent.