Internet campaign aims to curb Tesco power

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The Independent Online

An increasingly bitter campaign is being waged against Tesco by an umbrella alliance of campaigners, trade unionists, environmentalists and charities protesting at its "devastating" impact on communities.

Campaigners opened a new front against the retail giant yesterday by helping local people organise opposition to planning applications through a new website, Tescopoly. The site attacks Tesco's record on workers' rights, farming, the environment and local retailing.

Opposition to the march of the supermarkets - led by Tesco - is intensifying and threatening to become a political issue.

Campaigners claim the big four - Tesco, Asda (owned by Wal-Mart), Sainsbury's and Morrisons - are bullying suppliers and local authorities, harming the environment and deliberately driving small grocers, butchers and bakers out of business.

A parliamentary report called for the Government yesterday to halt all new supermarket mergers and acquisitions and appoint a supermarket regulator to watch over the stores. During its seven-month inquiry, the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Small Shops heard evidence that the chains had engaged in predatory pricing - selling goods below cost - to damage local rivals.

Tescopoly - tescopoly.org - mimics Tesco's colour scheme and alters its slogan to read "Every Little Hurts". Its backers include Friends of the Earth, GMB London, the Small and Family Farms Alliance, nef (new economics foundation) and War on Want. Tescopoly wants the supermarket sector to be independently regulated and for the Competition Commission to investigate supermarket dominance. A new local campaign section of the website allows protesters to co-ordinate action.

Tesco has become the most high-profile supermarket with annual profits of £2bn and a market share of 30 per cent. Rivals fear its large land bank for new stores will make it all-powerful in British retailing. Many business commentators see the company as an example of a successful British company which is creating jobs and expanding overseas.

Robin Webster, the supermarket campaigner for Friends of the Earth, said: "Tesco has such a massive part of the market and ... such a stranglehold on suppliers. The majority of people coming to us are people fighting Tesco's plans to build new stores in their community."

Tesco said it tried hard to engage with campaign groups to explain the benefits Tesco brings to communities. It said in a statement: "In our experience, these groups do not represent the views of most ordinary people... All we ask is that these groups recognise people have a choice and how they exercise that choice should not be dictated by regulation."

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