Grocers accused of threatening behaviour

The Competition Commission will have to sift through millions of e-mails as it seeks to find out if Asda and Tesco have used their dominance to squeeze suppliers unfairly.

The Commission has issued Tesco and Asda with a Section 109 request, effectively a subpoena, asking for all communications between the supermarkets and their suppliers between June and July. It is alleged that the two supermarkets may have sent threatening and abusive e-mails to farmers and food suppliers.

Asda said yesterday that this could be up to 11 million e-mails, while Tesco believes that even after it has sifted out irrelevant communication it will still present the Commission with more than a million documents.

The Commission is believed to have asked for the information after receiving a tip-off from a supplier. A Tesco spokewoman said it would comply with the request. An Asda official said: “We take our responsibility to our suppliers very seriously as it is a partnership that is vital to both of us.”

Sainsbury’s and Morrisons have not been asked to supply information in this part of the investigation. The Competition Commission is conducting an extensive inquiry into the grocery sector that is scheduled to conclude early next year.