WM Morrison supermarkets PLC: an apology
On 20 September 2007 the OFT issued a press release at the same time as a Statement of Objections against a number of large supermarkets and dairy processors.
Morrisons was one of the supermarkets included in the Statement of Objections. However, the press release incorrectly suggested that:
1. Morrisons was the subject of a provisional OFT finding of infringement in relation to milk, cheese and butter over a two year period (2002 and 2003), and that
2. Morrisons had previously been warned by the OFT against anti-competitive behaviour.
In fact, the OFT has not made any provisional finding of infringement against Morrisons in relation to the supply of butter and cheese. Nor has Morrisons been accused of any price fixing activity after 2002. The only allegation relating to Morrisons relates to liquid milk products in 2002. In addition, the OFT accepts that Morrisons had not received a warning from the OFT.
The OFT regrets that the press release contained these serious errors, and wishes to apologise sincerely to Morrisons for their publication.
The OFT was and is in no position to decide whether there has been a breach of the law until it has considered the responses to the Statement of Objections, including those from Morrisons.
The press release also contained a quotation from Sean Williams of the OFT. The OFT wishes to make clear that nothing in Mr Williams' quoted remarks was intended to suggest that the OFT, or anyone within the OFT, had concluded that Morrisons was guilty, or would necessarily be found guilty, of price-fixing in relation to the supply of certain liquid milk products in 2002. The OFT has not, and had not at any earlier stage, reached any such conclusion. Nor has the OFT reached any conclusion that Morrisons acted in a manner which it knew to be anti-competitive.
The OFT regrets any misunderstanding arising from the quoted remarks. It wishes to reassure Morrisons that it remains entirely open-minded about its provisional findings pending its consideration of representations from Morrisons and the totality of the evidence.
The OFT has agreed to pay Morrisons £100,000 in settlement of the defamation action brought by Morrisons, and to pay Morrisons' costs in relation to both the judicial review and defamation actions launched by Morrisons following the press release. The OFT is committed to completing the investigation as soon as possible.
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Published on: 2008-04-24
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