The Office of Fair Trading has modified its ‘call for information’ questionnaire to make it less complex and daunting for independent retailers to fill out.

Following an event in Birmingham yesterday – when around 50 retailers had the chance to speak face to face with OFT representatives about the workings of the retail fuels market – the OFT agreed to prioritise the questions for independents.

Brian Madderson, chairman of the PRA, who arranged for OFT project manager Jon Riley and economist Terry Ridout to participate in one-to-one sessions with retailers yesterday afternoon, said: “The OFT people were subject to this highly passionate and intensive barrage of complaints from retailers and went away saying it was a fantastic day, a learning curve and excellent information gathering exercise for them.

“They understand that independents are so busy and don’t have the spare staff like oil companies and hypers do to write 100-page legalised submissions so they are going to modify the questionnaire to make it simpler for independents to respond. After yesterday the OFT has a better sense of which questions might be more or less relevant to independents.”

Madderson said the key complaints from retailers were about the pricing strategies of certain oil companies who supply dealers and company-owned sites. “There was real concern that they could be indulging in predatory pricing, which is impacting on their own franchisees in the same neighbourhood,” he said.

“The other key complaint was the hypers blatantly using fuel to drive footfall through their stores. The government must recognise that supermarkets are having a huge depressing effect on independent retailers, their capacity for investment and their ability to survive.”

Retailers have until October 18 to respond to the OFT’s call for information on the fuel retailing sector. To download the revised version of the questionnaire click here.

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