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Article United Kingdom: Competition Regulator Finds Two UK Grocery Retailers Using Anticompetitive Land Agreements

On December 6, 2023, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) (formerly the Competition Commission), an independent nonministerial government department that is responsible for competition and consumer protection in the United Kingdom (U.K.), announced that it had taken action against two grocery retailers in the U.K. for breaching the Groceries and Market Investigation (Controlled Land) Order 2010.

The order prevents grocery stores from imposing restrictions on land neighboring their stores from being used by rival grocery stores. It specifically prevents the seven major grocery retailers named in the order from using restrictive covenants, or requiring others to use restrictive covenants, to stop other grocery stores from operating on land they own. The guidance issued on the order provides that land agreements involving the seven grocery stores designated in the order should not contain:

1.  restrictions that benefit a designated supermarket while preventing the retailing of groceries
2.  exclusivity arrangements in place relating to grocery retailing that have a duration of more than 5 years
3.  restrictive covenants preventing grocery retailing that benefit a designated supermarket apart from the exceptions


Two exceptions exist: if the land is used to support the grocery store, such as for carparks, service yards, or access roads; or if the land had not been previously used by a grocery store and the agreement was entered into by the grocery store’s designated pension supplier.

The CMA found that grocery retailers, Morrisons and Marks & Spencer, which hold 8.4% and 3.4% of the market share of the U.K.’s supermarket industry respectively, violated the order multiple times over the past decade. To address the breach of the order, the CMA wrote open letters to both retailers, acknowledging the work they had done with the CMA, setting out the breaches, and stating it expects the retailers to rectify the issues outlined in the letters to bring them into compliance with the order.

The order, made by the CMA under the powers provided by section 161 of the Enterprise Act 2002, aimed to “remedy[ ], mitigat[e] or prevent[ ] any detrimental effects so far as they have resulted from, or may be expected to result from, the adverse effect on competition” caused by “the high levels of concentration in local markets for the supply of groceries by mid-sized and larger grocery stores, and the control of land in highly-concentrated local markets by incumbent retailers.”

Clare Feikert-Ahalt, Law Library of Congress
February 20, 2024

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Chicago citation style:

Feikert-Ahalt, Clare. United Kingdom: Competition Regulator Finds Two UK Grocery Retailers Using Anticompetitive Land Agreements. 2024. Web Page. https://www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2024-02-19/united-kingdom-competition-regulator-finds-two-uk-grocery-retailers-using-anticompetitive-land-agreements/.

APA citation style:

Feikert-Ahalt, C. (2024) United Kingdom: Competition Regulator Finds Two UK Grocery Retailers Using Anticompetitive Land Agreements. [Web Page] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2024-02-19/united-kingdom-competition-regulator-finds-two-uk-grocery-retailers-using-anticompetitive-land-agreements/.

MLA citation style:

Feikert-Ahalt, Clare. United Kingdom: Competition Regulator Finds Two UK Grocery Retailers Using Anticompetitive Land Agreements. 2024. Web Page. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2024-02-19/united-kingdom-competition-regulator-finds-two-uk-grocery-retailers-using-anticompetitive-land-agreements/>.