And we’re off. After much speculation, CAMRA has finally exercised its “super-complaint” power. This will force the Office of Fair Trading to fast-track (within 30 days) consideration of anti-competitive practices in the UK pub market.
The problem as laid out in their complaint-A Fair Share for the Consumer is that unjustifiable high rents and tied beer prices are contributing to the grim harvest of pub closures. And they’re not exactly benefitting the consumer, either. Which is the whole idea of exclusive purchasing agreements as allowed by the EU.
CAMRA aren’t seeking an end of the tie, merely progressive reform to allow more of the benefits to be passed onto landlord and customer alike. And for tied pubs to be allowed to buy in one “guest beer” (sounds familiar)-well, they are the Campaign For Real Ale.
In terms of pub rents, they are seeking an independent and fair assessment method which allows the licensee access to how the rent is calculated. And it must take account of the fact that the licensee is paying inflated prices for his stock. Certainly one measure that everyone seems to agree with is the end of the “restrictive covenant” whereby pubcos can prevent the pub being used as a licensed premises in the future.
The ball will firmly be in the OFT court now. So keep watching the skies.