A High Court Judge has slammed the Office of Fair Trading for engaging in “public relations exercises” and accused the regulator of trying to attract “sensationalist publicity” over its inquiry into alleged price-fixing, according to the Daily Telegraph today.
Mr Justice Davis’s damning comments came as he granted supermarket chain Morrisons permission to seek a judicial review of the way the OFT publicised its controversial and high-profile investigation into the alleged price-fixing of milk.
His comments are likely to heighten concerns about the tactics adopted by the OFT since the appointment of John Fingleton as chief executive at the end of 2005.
Mr Justice Davies criticised a press release issued by the OFT in September 2007, when it reached its provisional decision.
In a strongly worded press release the OFT claimed that collusion had cost consumers£270 million. “This is a very serious case. We believe supermarkets have been colluding to put up the price of dairy products,” said the OFT in the release.
In his ruling, Mr Justice Davies stated: “The original press release seems to me to illustrate the dangers of bodies such as the Office of Fair Trading engaging in public relations exercises designed or calculated to attract potential sensationalist publicity via the media.”