Web retailer alleges anti-Internet high-street conspiracy

Bricks and mortar fight back with dirty tactics... or so the story goes

Britain's traditional high-street stores are feeling the pinch from their online rivals and have resorted to bullying suppliers and manufactures not to supply online traders, according to one Web based company. Online electronics site, Intersaver.co.uk, says it has registered an official complaint with the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) claiming that high-street stores are operating an anti-Internet monopoly on consumer electronics. In its complaint Intersaver alleges that Japanese consumer electronics giant, JVC, failed to deliver products to it as a direct result of pressure from high-street stores. Intersaver claims it reached an agreement with JVC to stock a range of its home entertainment devices, but that JVC refused to deliver because Intersaver's prices undercut those of high-street stores. An Intersaver statement says that it presented the OFT with recorded telephone conversations in which JVC representatives allegedly refuse to honour its deal with Intersaver because its prices were too low. "Some manufacturers are under a great deal of pressure from their major High Street clients to deny us access to product," says John Thornhill, managing director of Intersaver in a prepared statement. "If certain retailers have difficulty competing with that, then they should look to improve their own methods, instead of these futile attempts to apply an unjust stranglehold on the market." UK company secretary at JVC Dermot O'Rouke, says Intersaver's allegations are "totally unfounded". He also says that no pressure has ever been placed on JVC by high-street retailers and denies all knowledge of this being applied at all. "We treat all applicants for an account fairly," says O'Rouke. "As long as they meet all the requirements, we will give them the account." He says that the deal with Intersaver fell down because, "unfortunately certain supporting information was not supplied." O'Rouke adds that JVC is, "not worried whatsoever." The OFT confirms it has received the complaint but a spokesman says it is yet to decide whether to investigate it further. This spokesman says that although this type of complaint is fairly common in many market environments, this is the first time an Internet company has come to them with a complaint about an offline conspiracy. Consumer analyst with Gartner Group, Michael Doman, says the complaint could signal the start of a growing trend. He says that as Internet users start to buy more online, the pressure could really beginning piling on the high-street stores. "These stories are increasing," he says. What do you think? Tell the Mailroom. And read what others have said. Take me to the e-commerce special.
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