Independent newsagents will be marching on 10 Downing Street next Wednesday (October 12) to hand over the Press for Reform petition organised by the National Federation of Retail Newsagents.
More than 20,000 people have signed the petition which calls for the "current outrageous practices by newspaper publishers and wholesalers to be overturned". The NFRN says more petitions are dropping through its headoffice letterbox on a daily basis.
NFRN members are meeting at 2pm at College Green, Westminster, (opposite the House of Commons) and will march on Downing Street where National President Kieran McDonnell will deliver the petition which calls for the industry to be referred to the Competition Commission for a review.
The announcement followed the delivery of an "explosive" 32-page submission to the Office of Fair Trading on Friday (September 30) by NFRN national president Kieran McDonnell, chief executive Paul Baxter and trade relations manager David Daniel. The submission was structured to expose the news industry structures and practices that the NFRN believes prevent, restrict or distort competition, to the detriment of consumers and retailers.
In the document the NFRN sets out in detail how publishers and distributors artificially maintain fixed prices on newspapers and magazines. The Federation describes how publishers and distributors control copy allocation, starving independents of best-selling titles which the NFRN believes is discriminatory and prevents consumers from buying the titles they want from the outlet of their choice. The document details the closure of local shops due to independent newsagents being financially squeezed out of the market by diminishing margins and escalating carriage charges, which in turn puts specialist services such as home news delivery at risk. It also shows how retailers have to contend with poor service levels, as a result of the absence of competition at wholesaler level, the failure of self-regulation and the lack of legally enforced service standards.
As well as clearly demonstrating the need for update review of the industry, the NFRN repeats its call for a referral to the Competition Commission for a full market investigation, proposing remedies that include the removal of fixed printed cover prices from newspapers and magazines, the removal of carriage charges imposed by wholesalers, the opportunity for retailers to have more control over their supply and a legally underpinned and independently enforced Service Level Agreement.
National president Kieran McDonnell said: "The NFRN submission to the OFT follows detailed consultation and debate, culminating in overwhelming support from the Federation’s National Council at its September meeting.
"I congratulate Paul Baxter and his team on what has been a very significant job of work to create, what I believe, is the most detailed and consumer focused submission that the NFRN has ever produced. We are now in the ’lap of the Gods’ at the OFT and await the outcome. However, whatever their decision, I am proud of the effort we have made to represent our members’ best interests in such a powerful submission." McDonnell concluded: "There is no doubt that our entire membership is backing this campaign. I have been inundated with letters of support from members and daily the NFRN head office is receiving thousands more signatures on our Press for Reform Petition."