Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Anger over Ruling That Beer Ties Can Continue

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Anger over Ruling That Beer Ties Can Continue

Article excerpt

Byline: John Hill

THE UK'S consumer watchdog has been branded "blinkered" and "stupid" for ruling that "beer ties" between landlords and pub companies do not affect their ability to compete in the marketplace.

The Office of Fair Trading has ruled for a second time that there was no evidence that a beer tie was anticompetitive, having come to a similar conclusion last October.

The tie forces landlords to buy drinks from the "pubcos" that own them, such as Punch Taverns, Enterprise and Scottish and Newcastle. Ann Pope, senior director of goods for the OFT, said the watchdog understands pub lessees are "concerned" about the issue and noted the pubcos were "taking steps to address some of these concerns".

It added, however, that its brief was to "assess whether the market is working well for consumers".

The decision has not gone down well with opponents of the tie. Leeds North West MP and Save the Pub Group chair Greg Mulholland said the OFT had "failed to do their job", while campaign group Fair Pint said the ruling was a "disgrace".

Head of Steam pub group managing director Tony Brookes described the ruling as "stupid". His Newcastle company operates a range of pubs in the north including The Cluny. He sent a written representation to the OFT comparing his pub Tilleys on Westgate Road with his only tied pub LYH on Northumberland Road. Tilleys is a Marston's pub with no tie, while he bought LYH from an administrator last year with a Scottish and Newcastle tie.

He said: "I was absolutely astounded that they said there was no case to answer, despite all the information given to them. It's just stupid.

"It's very difficult to compete when you're paying more for your beer and you can't access the full range of products. …

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