Commission moves deadline by three months
The Competition Commission (CC) is to extend its investigation into competition in the grocery market by three months.

In a letter to the main parties, the CC has notified that its report - which was originally scheduled for November - is expected to be published in February next year. This also means its provisional findings, originally scheduled for June, are now expected in September.

The Emerging Thinking document will present the CC's research into key issues, including planning, competition in the market and relationships with suppliers.

Of these, planning has emerged as a key battleground and Tesco - with its dominant market share - has been the target of so much speculation that it could be forced to sell its so-called landbank.

The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS), which represents the campaigning voice of more than 30,000 local shops, has welcomed this extended deadline.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: 'This inquiry is a once in a generation opportunity to achieve fairness in the grocery market and is too important to rush the conclusions. We had warned the commission that the original timetable caused unnecessary pressure on the process.

'The commission has also given further detail on how they are going about measuring competition in local markets; including plans to undertake SSNIP [small but significant and non-transitory increase in price] analysis to assess competition in local markets. While we remain willing and able to assist with this work, we remain cautious about the use of the SSNIP approach. Our concern is that any analysis is only as good as the data upon which it is based. Collecting that data in the right way is the main challenge that the commission faces at this stage.'

Lowman said the ACS rejects the simplistic approach to defining consumers as one homogenous group, with access to shops in a 30 minute drive, which has been put forward by the inquiry. He added that such an approach is irrelevant to the 27 per cent of households that do not have access to a car.