Britain’s Office of Fair Trading is investigating newspaper publisher Daily Mail & General Trust over its exclusive London distribution deals for freesheet daily title Metro and the paid-for Evening Standard.

It has emerged the OFT launched an inquiry in March after receiving a complaint from Richard Desmond, owner of DMGT’s arch rival Express Newspapers. The news is a boost to Desmond’s hopes of muscling into the market.

He plans to launch an evening freesheet of his own, titled the Evening Mail, but is hampered by his rival’s exclusive distribution deals with London Underground and the surface rail networks.

These agreements mean that the Evening Mail could not be handed out in London’s train stations – the key point of distribution for Metro and a major cause of its success among bleary-eyed commuters.

The OFT is investigating Desmond’s allegations that DMGT has attempted to “foreclose the market” with these exclusive tie-ups, breaching a section of the Competition Act dealing with abuse of a dominant position.

Desmond is likely to wait until the probe is complete before going ahead with the Evening Mail, probably putting back the new paper’s launch date to autumn at the earliest.

Data sourced from: BrandRepublic (UK); additional content by WARC staff