A beer and pub lobby group has filed its first ever “super complaint” to the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) over fears of anti-competitive practices in the industry.
The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) said high rents and “tied” beer prices - where pub companies compel tenants to buy drinks from them - would force good landlords out of business and threatened the sector with “extinction”.
Consumers are also paying more for their pints, the group said, as licensees pass higher charges on to them.
CAMRA said it was forced to use its power as a consumer body to raise the complaint with the OFT as the recession squeezes ever harder on the beleaguered industry.
Recent figures suggest that pubs are currently closing at a rate of seven a day.
The CAMRA move also follows a call for reform of the tie system from MPs on the Business and Enterprise Select Committee earlier this year. ‘Pubcos’, such as Midland firms Enterprise Inns and Punch Taverns, fell under the spotlight in the report, after claims that firms use their strong position to impose heavy rental burdens while failing to pass on the full benefit of discounts on beer to tenants.
CAMRA chief executive Mike Benner said: “Exploitation of ‘beer tie’ agreements and the unfair method of setting pub rents are harming consumers and society as a whole.
“Reform of the ‘beer tie’ along with a framework of support from Government is urgently required to save the pub from extinction.”
CAMRA said more than half of UK pubs operate under the tie arrangements, which prevent pub landlords buying beer and other products on the open market. The OFT has 90 days to respond to the move.