Case reference: CA98/02/2006
Summary of work
On 14 February 2003, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) received a
complaint from Northern & Shell plc (N&S) alleging that
Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL) had breached the Chapter II
prohibition of the Competition Act 1998 (Act).
N&S alleged that this had arisen from ANL's entry into exclusive
contracts with London Underground Limited, Network Rail and a number of
train operating companies for access to their stations to distribute its
free, morning newspaper, 'Metro', in London. N&S claimed that, as
a consequence of such exclusive contracts, it was unable to launch a
competing free, evening newspaper in London and that the market for
London daily newspapers, both paid for and free, had therefore been
The OFT opened a formal investigation on 19 March 2003, under section 25
of the Act, on the basis that it had reasonable grounds to suspect that
the Chapter II prohibition of the Act had been infringed. In particular,
the OFT suspected that ANL had infringed the Chapter II prohibition of
the Act by abusing a dominant position on the market for the sale and/or
distribution of free and/or paid-for newspapers in the London area, by
entering into the exclusive distribution agreements described above,
with the effect of foreclosing the market to new entry.
By a letter dated 28 May 2004, ANL indicated formally to the OFT that it
wished to offer binding commitments in order to address the OFT's
competition concerns. The proposed commitments were formally offered to
the OFT, in the form annexed to the Notice (the Proposed Commitments),
on 31 March 2005.
Having considered the Proposed Commitments in detail, the OFT reached a
provisional view that they addressed its competition concerns, for the
reasons set out in the Notice issued on 15 July 2005, and that, as a
result, it was appropriate for the OFT to exercise its discretion, under
section 31A (2) of the Act, to close its investigation by way of a
formal decision accepting the Proposed Commitments. This provisional
conclusion was subject to the outcome of a consultation process
initiated by the Notice, which the OFT was required to undertake by
paragraph 2 of Schedule 6A of the Act.
The consultation process ended on Friday 26 August 2005 and the OFT has
reviewed the consultation responses received. Subsequently, in response
to issues arising from the consultation, ANL has agreed to clarify
certain of the Proposed Commitments. The OFT has now decided to accept
the Commitments, as clarified, for the reasons set out in its Decision,
and has therefore closed its file in respect of this investigation.