The co-owner of Asda, Mohsin Issa, has said he thought it was ‘unfair’ for competition watchdog bosses to say they would have charged the grocer more if they could for failing to provide relevant info for its probe into fuel pricing.
In June, Asda was fined £60,000 by competition watchdog for failing to co-operate properly with a CMA probe into fuel prices.
It followed an investigation that found competition at the pumps had “weakened” due to supermarkets driving up profit margins.
The co-owner of the ‘Big Four’ grocer was called in front of parliament’s Business and Trade Committee to clarify discrepancies between statements made in June by Asda’s chief commercial officer Kris Comerford in an evidence hearing about unfair pricing, and the findings by the competitions watchdog in its study on the supply of road fuel.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) report said that UK drivers purchasing fuel in 2022 paid six pence per litre more than they would have traditionally done due to major players in the grocery market increasing their costs.
However, in the hearing last month Comerford said that its pricing strategy had “not changed over many years”.
When asked again, Issa said that Asda’s strategy is to be the “price leader on fuel” and its strategy “remained unchanged” – failing to offer parliamentary leaders any further insight on the matter.
However the bosses of the CMA told the committee that Asda’s profit margins on petrol tripled in 2023 compared to 2019.
The CMA also said it found a “significant change” in its pricing approach by Asda after its takeover by the billionaire brothers and their private equity partner in 2021 from Walmart.
The co-owner was also asked to confirm whether or not Asda was still using fire-and-rehire tactics – which are when an employer fires an employee and offers them a new, potentially less favourable contract – after Comerford initially said it was “not something that Asda employs”.
Following the claim, GMB hit out at the commercial officer statement, publishing a letter which said that Asda had issued the threat of using fire and rehire – which Asda characterised as “dismiss and reengage” – as “a last resort”.
Hayley Tatum, senior vice president, chief people and corporate affairs officer, said today that she did not know if Asda would end up using “fire and rehire” tactics as a last resort.
In May, Asda reportedly threatened some 7,000 workers of being fired and rehired if they did not accept its 60p pay cut.
“We are engaging with colleagues and asking for ideas,” Tatum said.
City A.M . has contacted the GMB for a comment.