Asda's timely price pledge

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The Independent Online

Asda is hoping to escape the wrath of the Competition Commission's investigation into supermarket pricing by issuing a self-regulatory code of practice.

Asda is hoping to escape the wrath of the Competition Commission's investigation into supermarket pricing by issuing a self-regulatory code of practice.

The supermarket group, owned by America's Wal-Mart, will publish the document within two weeks, which it hopes will help to persuade the Government not to impose draconian restrictions on supermarket trade.

Asda is understood to make a series of pledges in the code on pricing, its business conduct and its dealings with its suppliers. The launch of the code is designed to coincide with the publication of the Competition Commission report into supermarket pricing.

The report, which will be sent to Trade Secretary Stephen Byers tomorrow, will recommend a series of measures to prevent Britain's four major supermarket groups - Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury's and Safeway - exerting a monopoly on prices. Mr Byers will make a final decision on the commission's recommendations before the Labour Party Conference in October, and it is expected to tie in with the "Rip-off Britain" campaign.

While the content of the report will remain confidential until Mr Byers makes this decision, it is understood that the commission hasn't gone as far as many retailers had first feared. It is believed that this is partly due to retailers having slashed margins and cut prices in the last year.

The commission's report is not thought to include any measures to force retailers to sell off stores or surplus land, for example. But industry observers expect the commission to get tough and perhaps even recommend the formation of a supermarket watchdog.

When Mr Byers makes his decision, it is expected to trigger a further wave of corporate activity among Britain's supermarkets. Many retailers froze their corporate plans when the commission started the investigation. Foreign retailers, like Ahold and Metro, are also understood to be eyeing the UK sector.

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