Now that we have got Tesco Law, we thought it might be interesting to consider how the supermarkets might go about delivering legal services…
Since we are in the very early days of this ‘Brave New World’ of legal services we thought it only fair to turn the spotlight on some recent examples of what happens when some big retailers come up against laws they’re not too keen on…apparently.
On 2nd October the Sunday Mail ran a story with the following headline
“Supermarkets slash alcohol prices in sneaky bid to beat new law.”
DEFIANT supermarkets slashed booze prices yesterday to beat the new law banning bulk-buy discounts.
Shoppers could still buy bargain booze as sneaky stores simply cut prices.
Alcohol Focus Scotland chief executive Dr Evelyn Gillan said:
“Retailers like to present themselves as being responsible, but what they are doing is finding ways to get round the law to ensure they can still sell booze at pocket money prices.
A row has broken out over a new West Yorkshire Asda supermarket just weeks after it opened. It has been opening half an hour earlier than permitted since it began trading on Wednesday, September 7.
Under the existing planning permission Asda should be starting business at 8.30am each day, but instead has been opening at 8am.
The company has now applied, retrospectively, for the earlier time but Councillor Colin Campbell (Lib Dem, Otley & Yeadon) accused it of riding roughshod over the feelings of local residents:
He said: “I think it is unfortunate that a large company like Asda choose to flout the planning laws in this way. I have spoken to planning officers concerning this and a number of other unauthorised activities on site. I am told that now that retrospective applications have been submitted they can take no action until they are determined.”
An Asda spokesman acknowledged that the store had been opening at the earlier time but said it was now sticking to the 8.30am opening until it gained planning permission.
Well good on yer mate for observing the rules.
He said: “All Asda supermarket stores open at 8am and we didn’t want to deprive the people of Otley by opening 30 minutes later.“
Of course! – this is just about ASDA ‘normalising’ its services across the UK!
A Tesco Express, in the Stokes Croft area of Bristol, which was the focus of riots in April is still boarded up and has now been covered in graffiti.
For years Stokes Croft has been a bohemian area, crammed with independent shops, squats, bars and clubs and it is this individual character which some people felt would be compromised by the arrival of supermarket giant Tesco, even in its smaller Tesco Express guise.
Much of the anger was directed at the planning process which failed to make it clear a new supermarket was on the cards which prompted Bristol City Council to write to the Department for Communities and Local Government. Along with the London Assembly, they have called for a new “supermarket” classification in planning law.
At present, express supermarkets come under the ‘A1’ classification which can cover any type of retail outlet – a vintage clothes shop, a hairdressing salon, even an undertaker.
The impact a new supermarket can have on an area, such as frequent deliveries from heavy goods vehicles, should put Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Lidl and the like, in a class of their own, say campaigners.
Bristol councillor Alex Woodman said: “What we’re asking the government to do is refine the A1 class so that it distinguishes between, say, small local independent retailers and national chain stores, where the impact on the local area is potentially more significant.”
He told BBC Radio 4’s The Report that had his committee known about Tesco’s interest, they would have given more consideration to the potential impact the store would have on the local area.
“Because we didn’t know that at the time, the council wasn’t able to consider the impacts and we were in a situation where planning permission was granted without any thought being given to them,” he said.
Claire Milne, co-ordinator of the No Tesco in Stokes Croft campaign, believes Tesco deliberately kept quiet about its intentions.
“We know from various people in the community that Tesco have been looking in this area for at least a few years,” she said.
But Tesco’s head of property communications, Michael Kissman, says there was nothing underhand in the way Tesco went about setting up in Stokes Croft.
He said the original planning application was put in by the administrators of a comedy club, who were struggling to find someone to take over the property.
“They were clear that the purpose of its change of use was to make it more marketable to future occupiers,” he said.
Still a comedy club then Mr Kissman?
On 10th October four supermarkets were fined a total of £50 million for price fixing a range of essential household dairy products including milk and cheese. Imagine a cartel of solicitors had tried the same trick with their clients?
John Fingleton, Chief Executive of the Office of Fair Trading commented:
“This decision sends a strong signal to supermarkets and other businesses that the OFT will take action and impose significant fines where it uncovers anti-competitive behaviour.”
The original sum sought was £115 million but the companies involved did a deal with the regulator
One wonders if the OFT will cast its eye over the newly emerging legal services providers to determine whether their behaviour flouts competition legislation…