The controversial issue of extended product warranties is expected to prove a hotly contested battleground today [Thursday] when the Competition Commission holds a rare open debate between some of Britain's largest retail groups and consumer organisations.

Standard-bearers of the opposing battalions are John Clare, ceo of Dixons Stores Group – the UK’s largest electrical and electronics retailer – and Alan Asher, director of campaigns at the Consumers’ Association. The referee is Sir Derek Morris, chairman of the commission.

The investigation began in February, when the commission decided that the 25% share of the market for extended warranties [effectively an insurance policy against product failure after expiry of the manufacturer’s one-year guarantee] held by Dixons’ justified an initial inquiry.

Sir Derek expects the public hearing to be “more seminar-like than adversarial”, while conceding: “It’s a subject that raises reasonably strong passions, that’s true. We can’t control what happens at an open hearing.”

Following the hearing, the five-strong panel is expected to announce its verdict within ten days. Many observers believe this will favour an extended and more detailed investigation.

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff