06 September 2007 | Antony Barton
Tesco and Asda deny mistreatment of their suppliers, after the Competition Commission began a probe into communications from the supermarkets.
The watchdog confirmed it issued section 109 notices (S109s) to two retailers, requesting they submit millions of e-mails they sent over the summer to their suppliers.
The Financial Times
reported allegations of "threatening and aggressive" behaviour, used by the retailers to secure discounts on goods during a recent price war.
The commission's action forms part of its inquiry into the buying power of UK supermarkets. It is due to release its provisional findings next month.
In a statement, Tesco said: "The allegation that threatening and aggressive e-mails have been sent has not been mentioned to us." It added it is assisting the commission with its "enormous data request" and is confident it will find its relationships with suppliers are professional. It said it works to build long-term relationships with them and it complies with the industry code of conduct.
An Asda statement said the retailer is happy to help the commission and observes the supplier code of practice. It added the request covers over 11 million e-mails, and it has asked the commission to be more specific about the information it requires.
A commission spokesman told SM that S109s were "not something used that often and certainly not something we issue on a weekly basis". They are used in this instance to provide legal cover for requesting commercially sensitive information. He added the notice only applies to e-mails sent to and from suppliers and the commission is in discussion with the two retailers to clarify requirements.