OFT delays on future of magazine distribution

The OFT has delayed its final opinion on the future of newspaper and
magazine distribution arrangements, despite previous assurances that it
would be issued by the end of September.

The reasons for the delay are not known, and the watchdog said it could not give any indication when an announcement was due.

The
current OFT chairman, John Vickers, was due to leave his post on
September 30, and industry insiders have speculated this may be related
to the delay.

Sir Michael Heseltine, owner of Haymarket, has been
spearheading a campaign for the OFT to change its draft opinion, which
stated that press distribution arrangements were anti-competitive.

He said: “We are surprised by the delay, but we take some hope from it.

“The
industry has worked very hard, even at the eleventh hour, to encourage
the OFT to revisit the case team’s work, and if they are taking the
time to do so that has to be welcomed, given the strength of the
industry’s case.”

The current system obliges retailers to use
certain suppliers for newspapers and magazines, but ensures that
readers in remote parts of the country get access to the full range of
titles.

Publishers fear that if retailers are free to seek better
deals that thousands of small newsagents and specialist titles could
close.

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