M&S and Morrisons criticised over 'unlawful' land deals
Marks & Spencer and Wm Morrison Supermarkets used unlawful land deals to block rivals, the competition watchdog ruled on Wednesday.
The Competition and Markets Authority said the two grocers had breached the 2019 Groceries Market Investigation (Controlled Land) Order on multiple occasions.
Marks & Spencer breached it 10 times between 2015 and 2019, it noted, while Morrisons breached it 55 times, between 2011 and 2020.
The Controlled Land Order was introduced to stop supermarkets placing restrictions on land that blocked rivals from opening competing stores nearby.
Adam Land, senior director of remedies, business and financial analysis at the CMA, said: "At a time when the weekly shop is a source of financial pressure for many families, it’s crucial that competition between supermarkets is working well to help people get the best deals they can.
"These restrictive agreements by our leading retailers are unlawful. There can be no excuses made for non-compliance with an order made in 2010, especially when we know the positive impact for shoppers on the high street."
The CMA said it had written to both retailers, outlining both the breaches and what actions were required to improve compliance.
It noted that five of M&S’s restrictions had now ended, as had 14 of Morrisons'. Both have agreed to address the remaining restrictions.
Morrisons said: "We co-operated fully with the investigation and accept its findings. We now plan to rectify the outstanding breaches quickly."
M&S said: "We are disappointed that having worked closely with the CMA over the past three years, it has highlighted ten breaches, five of which are historic and expired.
"These have made no practical difference to the activity of our competitors or our tenants and did not adversely affect competition."
It added, however, that it was remedying the breaches "immediately" and had introduced compulsory training to prevent it happening again.