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Waitrose blocked rival supermarkets from opening nearby, competition watchdog says

·2-min read
Waitrose is the most expensive supermarket in the UK, according to consumer site Which? (John Lewis Partnership/Waitrose )
Waitrose is the most expensive supermarket in the UK, according to consumer site Which? (John Lewis Partnership/Waitrose )

Waitrose has been accused of stifling competition after it admitted to signing deals which blocked other supermarkets from setting up shop nearby.

The John Lewis-owned firm agreed property contracts which prohibited rival stores to open in close proximity in at least seven locations including in Notting Hill, the competition regulator has said, breaching a ruling which banned the practice in 2010.

The ruling gave consumers more choice and allowed them to have access to cheaper prices, according to the Competition and Markets Authority.

Adam Land, Senior Director of Remedies at the CMA, said: “It’s disappointing that Waitrose has acted against the interests of shoppers, despite these rules having been in place for over 10 years.

“Families across the UK are facing the rising cost of living. Preventing other supermarkets from opening new stores could stop people saving on their weekly shop.”

Waitrose is the most expensive supermarket in the UK, according to consumer site Which?, with a sample trolley of groceries costing around 15% more than at rival Tesco in a July study.

In August, Waitrose owner John Lewis said it would no longer accept price matching claims, meaning shoppers could face paying a premium when making a purchase at John Lewis if they find a product for less at rival shops.

The firm said it would continue to monitor other retailers’ prices especially on products that matter most to them.

Waitrose has since promised to rectify the seven non-compliant land agreements. It follows a similar ruling by the watchdog in 2020 in which it found Tesco had breached the rules over 20 times.

Waitrose said it was working closely with suppliers to keep prices down.

A Waitrose spokesperson said: “We’ve identified and addressed a small number of historic errors, but don’t believe we’ve enforced these to stop new shops opening.

“All of these branches are closely surrounded by other supermarkets, offering plenty of choice for customers.”