The case, which is investigating the suspected use of unreasonable stocking terms by Star pubs and bars in proposed MRO (Market Rent Only) tenancies, is the first undertaken by the PCA since its launch 3 years ago.
This is despite calls for earlier investigations relating to other issues.
Ian Cass, Chief Executive of the Forum of Private Business, said: “The issue over stocking requirements as set out in the pubs code was raised when the code was first introduced 3 years ago as something that needed clarification.
“Surely government and the PCA should have realised that this greater clarification would be needed, when Heineken bought 1,900 Punch pubs in 2017, making it the third largest pub operator in the UK, something the Secretary of State for Business Greg Clark welcomed as “another significant vote of confidence in the UK economy”, because it would be obvious that Heineken as a brewer would be making this investment in order to sell more of their products.”
Earlier this year the FPB formally cut ties with the Pubs Code Adjudicator citing his failure to have made any move to resolve significant issues within the industry.
In a comment at the time, Ian Cass said: “Whilst we continue to make ourselves available to Mr Newby to provide evidence and to engage on specific issues if required, there seems to be no merit in simply joining a regular talk shop, and we have advised him that we believe that our time will be better spent lobbying the politicians directly where the influence may be greater as well as providing much needed information and support to new and existing pub tenants.”
CAMRA’s National Chairman Nik Antona said: “CAMRA welcomes the news that the Pubs Code Adjudicator (PCA) is finally using its power to launch an investigation – something we have called for in our continuing campaign to get the Pubs Code working as intended. An investigation and ruling from the PCA will help provide clarity on Market Rent Only (MRO) terms from one pub company, but we need wider investigations on whether all pubcos are abiding by the spirit of the Code. We want to see greater enforcement powers for the PCA to deter pub companies from unfair and unlawful behaviour in the first place.
“It is clear that the Pubs Code is not working. CAMRA is leading the fight to get meaningful changes introduced by talking directly to licensees, when the PCA has admitted they can’t. We are currently surveying tied tenants and we expect that the results will illustrate ongoing issues with the Code and provide a compelling case for reform.”