OFT to meet John Lewis about complaints over Dixons’ PC deals

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) is to meet the John Lewis Partnership this week to discuss the retailer’s complaints over exclusive supply deals signed between PC manufacturers and high-street stores group Dixons.

OFT representatives may meet John Lewis directors today (Wednesday)to discuss a possible fresh investigation of the PC market following complaints first revealed in Marketing Week last autumn (November 4, 1999).

The move comes after this week’s highly-publicised battle between John Lewis and OFT officials over deals to sell Packard Bell and Compaq PCs exclusively through Dixons-owned chains. John Lewis claims the group’s three chains – Dixons, PC World and Curry’s – hold 57 per cent of the high-street market.

However, the OFT maintains the deals do not contravene competition policy because it treats the PC market as including Internet and direct order as well as high-street sales. Dixons’ chains claim less than 25 per cent of this broader definition. This brings it in line with competition policy, according to the OFT.

The OFT cleared the market last October, saying a significant number of first-time buyers bought their PCs through direct-sales companies. But it has written to John Lewis saying it would consider launching an additional investigation into PC sales if the retailer could produce fresh evidence about PC competition.

A John Lewis spokesman says: “Our research shows the majority of first-time PC buyers want to see and touch what they are about to buy. We want the OFT to publish research used in its initial report as it seems to contradict our own findings.”

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