Tesco launches new website to counter rivals' monopoly claims

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The Independent Online

Tesco is fighting back against rivals' claims that it dominates the grocery market with a new website to limit the fallout from the Competition Commission's probe into the sector.

"Talking Tesco" was launched as the group's four biggest competitors ganged up against the market leader in their submissions to the watchdog's inquiry. It is the supermarket giant's attempt to quash claims that its high share of local markets is bad for shoppers.

J Sainsbury told the watchdog that Tesco could account for more than 40 per cent of all grocery shopping within four years unless the planning laws are re-written to reign in the country's biggest grocer.

Lucy Neville Rolf, Tesco's company secretary and corporate affairs director, said Talking Tesco would tell its customers its side of the story. Without rubbishing its rivals' claims, Tesco paints a different picture of the UK's supermarket landscape.

According to Sainsbury's, Tesco's large supermarkets hold a monopoly or duopoly in 40 per cent of their local markets; yet Talking Tesco claims "customers choose where they shop". It cites research showing that 94 per cent of British consumers have a choice of three or more different grocery chains within a 15-minute drive.

Talking Tesco includes a shopping list of ways that consumers have benefited from the grip that supermarkets have on the country. From lower prices and higher product quality, to more choice and better service, Tesco paints a glowing picture.

Talking Tesco is the latest volley in a public relations' offensive that has already seen the group launch a "community plan" to improve its strained relationship with some towns anxious to avoid becoming "Tesco towns" such as Inverness and Bicester.

Sainsbury's, Asda, Wm Morrison and Marks & Spencer all demanded changes to planning regulations governing new stores and extensions in an attempt to check Tesco's retail power. The commission is expected to publish its initial findings in December.