The Guardian reports that competition watchdogs are considering sending staff into Tesco and Asda offices to hunt for evidence that the supermarkets have been abusing their suppliers. The Competition Commission has ordered the two biggest supermarket chains to hand over all internal emails and other documents sent and received during five weeks in June and July.
The move came after the commission uncovered evidence of buyers using threatening language to demand cash payments from suppliers to finance the supermarket price wars. The new investigation could delay the initial findings of the watchdog’s inquiry into the way the big grocers operate, which are due late next month. Yesterday Leeds-based Asda admitted it was a target of the new competition commission inquiry, but insisted it had “nothing to hide”. A spokeswoman said: “We have had an approach for emails over a certain period. We are not sure what they are looking for but clearly some suppliers have taken certain allegations to the commission.”
Tesco, however, responded angrily to the inquiry being made public. Its legal affairs director, Lucy Neville-Rolfe, said: “It is extraordinary to see the Competition Commission putting these prejudicial allegations into the media in this way. The allegation that threatening and aggressive emails have been sent has not been mentioned to us.”