Wall-Mart behind Fair Trade probe

Wal-Mart was the whistleblower behind the Office of Fair Trading’s current probe into alleged price fixing of toiletries, The Sunday Telegraph said. In blowing the whistle, Wal-Mart, which owns the Asda chain, has guaranteed itself immunity from a fine should the OFT discover any cartel activity.

Any company found guilty could be fined up to 10 per cent of its annual worldwide sales, which in Wal-Mart’s case would be $37bn (£18.7bn). The move is likely to make the US retailer deeply unpopular with the companies involved, many of whom are its largest suppliers. Last weekend The Telegraph newspaper revealed that around 100 OFT officials and lawyers raided the offices of the country’s biggest supermarkets ten days ago over allegations of price-fixing involving dozens of popular household brands.

All the companies involved in the probe have strenuously denied that they are involved in any cartel activity, and Asda’s decision to tip off the OFT does not mean that price-fixing has necessarily occurred. The OFT has refused to comment on the investigation.

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