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Newsagents’ body seeks OFT review of newspaper and magazine industry

By Hamish Mackay

January 23, 2012 | 3 min read

The National Federation of Retail Newsagents (NFRN) is seeking an Office of Fair Trading review of the newspaper and magazine industry.

It bases its case on a consumer survey that found that among other factors that as many as 76% of newspaper readers and 68% of magazine readers do not know that the cover price is a recommended retail price rather than a fixed one.

And 25% of the sample agreed that "it would be good if retailers started to offer promotions on newspapers and magazines like they do on other products sold in food and retail stores".

Almost 60% of newspaper buyers surveyed say they are reading fewer “paid for” newspapers than a year ago - with 20% doing this to save money.

In the most extensive consumer research exercise ever commissioned by the NFRN, it hired HIM Research and Consulting to survey more than 1400 UK consumers on a range of newspaper and magazine issues.

That, combined with other data compiled by the NFRN, is being used in support of the federation’s supplementary submission to the Office of Fair Trading. Among some of the factors to emerge from the HIM survey are:

• 70% of the UK sample population buys a newspaper at least once a week.

• The most common place consumers buy newspapers is in newsagents (59%).

• Almost 60% of newspaper buyers say they are reading fewer “paid for” newspapers than a year ago. 20% are doing this to save money.

• 76% of newspaper readers and 68% of magazine readers think the cover price is a fixed price that they must pay rather than a recommended retail price. Very few consumers have experienced price competition.

• 43% of newspaper readers believe that newspapers are generally more expensive than a year ago and 59% have considered not purchasing due to price.

• Without a cover price, 18% of consumers think there would be more retailer promotions and 27% think there would be more competition between newspapers and magazines.

• 25% of consumers think “it would be good if retailers started to offer promotions on newspapers and magazines like they do on other products sold in food and retail stores”.

Additional studies undertaken by the NFRN track prices changes for weekly and monthly magazines and national and regional newspapers over the past few years, and it points out that this lays the lie to the popular perception that consumers benefit from having publishers in control of cover prices.

Says NFRN chief executive Paul Baxter: “Having been granted an extension by the OFT in order to gather more information, we believe we have used the additional time fruitfully.

“The evidence gleaned in the HIM market research is undeniable and, in our view, provides an overwhelming rationale why the OFT should prioritise a further short review of the news industry, which we expect would lead to a referral to the Competition Commission for a full market investigation.”

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