Drug firms win legal challenge to Asda prices

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The Independent Online
The Asda supermarket chain attacked two major vitamin suppliers for "striking at shoppers' purses" last night after it was forced to abandon attempts to sell their products at a discount, writes Peter Victor.

Legal action by Seven Seas and Roche Consumer Health forced the company to scrap 20 per cent reductions on popular products, including Sanatogen and Lucozade energy tablets.

Asda said customers would lose out after it was forced to give a High Court undertaking that it would not continue to discount the products.

It started selling eight vitamins and mineral supplements at reduced prices on 16 October but was challenged by the suppliers under Resale Price Maintenance legislation.

On Tuesday, Seven Seas and Roche Consumer Health gained an injunction forcing the firm to raise prices back to their original levels.

Although the suppliers gained an injunction relating to eight products, yesterday's undertaking also covered 42 others made by them. The prices will be restored to their original levels at 2pm today.

Some 30 other products in Asda's vitamin, mineral and supplement range will remain discounted because they are own brands or because their suppliers have not taken action. Some Asda products will be half the price of the named brands.

The company plans to take legal advice and may return to the High Court next week.

The price increases were welcomed last night by the Proprietary Association of Great Britain, representing manufacturers, which said it proved that Resale Price Maintenance was enforceable under the law and was in the public interest.