Ruffley attacks OFT over threat to independent and rural newsagents

Thursday, 27 October, 2005

David Ruffley MP has spoken out today in support of independent and rural newsagents across Suffolk and attacked Office of Fair Trading (OFT) recommendations that could pose a threat to their viability.

In a report to the OFT Professor Paul Dobson has suggested that nationally as many as 8000 newsagents could 'exit the market', with Suffolk newsagents in the firing line. Opponents of the proposals include the National Federation of Retail Newsagents.

Proposals from the OFT will alter arrangements for the distribution of magazines.

At present suppliers voluntarily follow the Newspaper Code of Practice which requires regional suppliers to deliver newspapers to all retailers who want them. Therefore, Suffolk's small and more remote newsagents have been able to make sure they are fully stocked and local residents have been able to request their newsagent stock any magazine.

The OFT now proposes that retailers be allowed to look for alternative arrangements for the distribution of magazines. The effect of this will be that large retailers such as supermarkets will be able to take advantage of the opportunity while independent and rural newsagents will not be able to guarantee an economically viable delivery service.

David said:

'This is yet another example of the needs of rural communities such as Suffolk being ignored.

'These OFT proposals pose a threat to independent newsagents across Suffolk and especially those in small rural communities where residents rely on their local newsagent.

'It is a horrifying fact that as many as 8000 newsagents could close across the country. The result will be fewer outlets, higher prices and less choice for my constituents.

'I will be opposing these proposals vigorously and will continue to do everything I can to support independent and rural businesses throughout our County.'

Notes to Editors

Paul Dobson, Professor in Competition Economics at Loughborough University, has published research into the decision and submitted his findings to the OFT. The model suggested:

''Between five thousand and eight thousand small retailers could well exit the market'

Opposition to the OFT proposals currently include:

- National Federation of Retail Newsagents

- Federation of Small Businesses

- Which?

- Rural Shops Alliance

- Association of News and Magazine Wholesales

- Newspaper Publishers Association

- Newspaper Society

- Periodical Publishers Association

- Independent Publishers Advisory Council

- British Society of Magazine Editors

- The Mayor of London

- Tessa Jowell (the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport!)