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
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Office / Sales Manager

£22000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established and expanding South...

Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones