Monopolies chief hits back at consumer critics: The MMC has not 'gone soft', Graeme Odgers tells David Nicholson-Lord

THE chairman of the Monopolies and Mergers Commission yesterday described as 'biased and inaccurate' claims that the organisation had 'gone soft' on industry and had stopped representing the consumer.

In an interview with the Independent, Graeme Odgers, the businessman who took over the chairmanship 15 months ago, said the criticisms were based on a misunderstanding of the framework for regulating competition. 'The consumer interest is hugely important to us.'

Mr Odgers, who in April last year became the first non-lawyer to chair the MMC, has come under fire from MPs and the consumer lobby after a series of reports on areas such as compact discs, perfumes, ice creams and mortgage valuations. Critics, such as the Consumers' Association, say these have favoured industry at the expense of customers.

Mr Odgers rejected the charges and defended the MMC's recent and much- criticised reports on perfumes and compact discs, both of which recommended no change. He said MMC research which showed that the price difference in compact discs between the United Kingdom and the United States was nothing like as large as claimed was unprecedented in its scope and 'absolutely solid'.

'Our prices are lower than almost anywhere in the world with the one exception of the US. Everybody likes to get lower prices if they possibly can. It's human nature. But the fact is that (compact discs) is a highly competitive market, with 600 smaller companies competing nose- to-nose and a tremendous range of products at an enormous range of prices.'

He also defended the rights of manufacturers of expensive perfumes not to sell their products in cut-price shops.

Their profit margins, 38 per cent, were lower than many of the stores that sold the perfumes and they had spent 'tens and tens of millions' of pounds building up a luxury brand image which was dependent on exclusive outlets. 'If you get a special product at a special price it is no longer a special product,' he added.

Mr Odgers, 60, whose previous career has been with firms such as GEC, Tarmac, British Telecom and Alfred McAlpine, said that forcing down prices would reduce businesses' scope for investment and innovation which was 'clearly . . . not in the public interest and not, in the long-term, in consumers' interests'.

The globalisation of the marketplace meant it was more important to bolster the competitiveness of British industry than it was 10 years ago. 'But I am not pro-industry or anti-consumer. I take both into account. That is the true industrial perspective.'

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Buttoned up: Ryan Reynolds with Helen Mirren in ‘Woman in Gold’
filmFor every box-office smash in his Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. Now he says it's time for a reboot
News
people
News
Actress Julianne Moore wins the Best Actress in a Leading Role Award for 'Still Alice' during the 87th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood, California
people
Sport
Ross Barkley
footballPaul Scholes says it's time for the Everton playmaker to step up and seize the England No 10 shirt
News
'We will fix it': mice in the 1970s children’s programme Bagpuss
science
Life and Style
2 Karl Lagerfeld and Choupette
fashion
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Executive

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Retail Buyer / Ecommerce Buyer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working closely with the market...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - CAD Software Solutions Sales

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A reputable company, famed for ...

Ashdown Group: Client Accountant Team Manager - Reading

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group has been engaged by a highly resp...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?