Arkansas-headquartered Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, could be fined up to one million marks (£320,000) by the German Federal Cartel Office if it is judged guilty of selling groceries at a loss.

An unofficial inquiry into trading practices at Wal-Mart's ninety-five German outlets has been launched following a complaint – believed to be from a rival supermarket. The FCO yesterday extended this to encompass four competing chains. Selling groceries below cost is illegal in Germany because of the threat it poses to smaller and medium-sized retailers.

A Wal-Mart spoke dismissed the FCO inquiry as a rival’s spoiling tactic, observing that the whole issue of cost is a grey area. He said: "It is quite a lot of hype. We are not selling at a loss the way we calculate it." [His defense recalls an unguarded remark by Wal-Mart chief executive David Glass during a presentation to analysts last year, when he dismissed low price promotions as “all part of the usual PR hype”. See WAMN online archives, 1-Nov-99]

News source: The Times (London)