Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Brulines working with Trading Standards

We must welcome James Dickson's view as being that of an industry expert adding a well informed, objective and balanced overview of the state of the tied pub sector. Mr Dickson sees fit to comment in detail about the nature of the tie and competition in the pub industry as if his company were a benign force adding value and quality to the trade's operational activities from top to bottom. The thinly veiled REALITY is that without the tied pub sector there would be no earthly need for anyone to employ the services of such a company making a fat £5 million a year out of pubs who don't need it in their cellars.

Take this thought a little further and you find that £19,000,000 - yes nineteen million quid - is taken straight off the tied sector's bottom line (i.e. £826 straight out every licensees' pocket; every year) to pay for their pubco's private security guard (rather like an uncertificated bouncer who has no formal qualifications or official legal standing) to sit in their cellars telling the pubco (vaguely) how much of their overpriced beer is going through their pumps.

£19mill. That's quite a tidy sum Mr Jackson's defending while his company is 'working with Trading Standards' to try to get SOME FORM OF APPROVAL (?) for their services. So quite clearly Brulines' equipment HAS NO approval by TS, forcing the question: did Brulines approach TS or did someone at TS start asking Brulines questions about fines being levied using their data as the only evidence of buying out? No organic carrot cake for guessing!

As for the Competition Commission, Brulines HAVE to believe there are strong grounds for the industry not to be taken there, or to the European Commission and Courts because there is a real danger that his company will be comprehensively out of a job if the tie goes. Whatever the 'strong grounds' James Dickson quotes are actually just the very same very weak hearsay you will increasingly hear spouted by anyone in the pro pubco camp - that all those interminable inquiries looking 'in detail' at the tied pub industry to date have found it 'fit for purpose; 'not anti-competitive'; or there being 'no basis for further investigation' is no reflection of what the reports actually found. Take a look at the conclusions of ANY of these inquiries and, FAR from satisfaction about the way the tie is implemented, you'll consistently find very serious concerns about anti competitive practices, abuses of power, the behaviour of pubcos toward licensees; discussion about market and price dominance and they mostly conclude that the situation should be closely monitored and revisited if necessary.

As for BEC - there surely was no need for BEC to ask Brulines to clarify anything directly because the 'claims' made about the equipment were self evidently spot on and demonstrations of the equipment given to the committee were unambiguous in their results: the equipment does not give accurate results; the data it generates is used as concrete evidence to extract fines from licensees; and is not Trading Standards approved.

Let's look at which 'facts' Mr Dickson is concerned about as having been 'gross misrepresentations'?

Could one fact be that inaccurate volume data has been used to support pubcos' fining licensees for buying out of tie without any other evidence?

Or the fact that the equipment, in daily use in 23,000 pubs, is NOT compliant with Trading Standards rules?

Or during the BEC hearings a statement of 'fact' was made that the equipment can tell the difference between the density of beer and water and also accurately records discrepancies between volumes bought and volumes dispensed. This particular 'evidence' was subsequently withdrawn once proved to be completely wrong.

Mr Dickson's got a lot of research to do before coming out and commenting on inaccurate facts and criticisms of the company he represents. Surely he has a DUTY to PROVE some 'facts' about how accurate his company's equipment really is and further 'facts' about how commercially or operationally valuable the equipment is for anyone who doesn't own a tied pub estate which is selling beer at rip off prices to publicans who are making subsistence wages while the pubcos and their satellite industries are raking it in off the back of licensees' graft and grind.

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