Sainsbury's in Legal Threat over Bag Exemption; Ocado Avoids Charge Due to Packing Usage

South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales), November 22, 2011 | Go to article overview

Sainsbury's in Legal Threat over Bag Exemption; Ocado Avoids Charge Due to Packing Usage


Byline: Peter Law

SUPERMARKET giant Sainsbury's has threatened to take legal action after one of its main competitors was made exempt from the new 5p carrier bag charge.

Online supermarket Ocado does not have to charge customers for single-use carrier bags, despite Wales last month becoming the first UK nation to introduce a levy.

The company was made exempt after the Welsh Government agreed that the primary use of its bags was to protect goods during packing in its Hertfordshire warehouse.

Other supermarkets, however, have been told they must charge customers 5p for each bag used in online orders as the primary use is delivering the goods.

But now confidential correspondence reveals Ocado's competitors have complained that the exemption is "ridiculous", "inconsistent" and has created an uneven playing field.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) - which represents Tesco, Sainsbury''s, Asda, Waitrose and Morrisons - warned the decision "may pave the way to an exemption on all grocery deliveries".

The e-mail exchanges between Welsh Government officials and the BRC and supermarkets were obtained by the Echo using the Freedom of Information Act.

In one e-mail, a manager at Sainsbury's wrote: "There is considerable concern amongst senior colleagues that we have spent time, effort and operational cost over the last year or so trying to find a solution for online when Ocado seem to have bypassed this entirely."

Addressing the concerns in an e-mail to retailers, a Welsh Government official said it had not made any "exemptions" and that it was down to local authorities to interpret and enforce the regulations.

The official goes on to confirm that the Welsh Government had agreed with Ocado that the primary purpose of its bags was to protect goods during its automated packing system. …

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