Opening salvo is fired at warranties public inquiry

The Consumers' Association will lock horns today with Dixons and Comet over extended warranties at an open hearing in London.

The hearing is part of the Competition Commission inquiry into competition in the electrical warranties market.

In advance of the day-long hearing, a Commission spokesman said: 'We're hoping for a lively debate and we're hoping to hear something new.'

He said the Commission had already heard evidence from all companies presenting, but it was hoped the publicity arising from the hearing would draw in new evidence from those not yet involved.

Today's schedule includes a presentation from Dixons chief executive John Clare, followed by Comet managing director Simon Fox. There will also be contributions from the Consumers' Association, with data from market researcher NOP, and the Association of British Insurers.

Consumers' Association senior policy advisor Phil Evans has already fired the opening shot. He has described extended warranty products as representing 'a market based on an overstatement of risk' and argued that 'the products are generally poor value for money'.

A final decision is expected on the future of electrical warranties from the Competition Commission in July.

The issue has proved highly controversial; criticism of electrical market leader Dixons has provoked investor and consumer concern.

- Letters: p11.