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OFT’s two-year probe into NIBS nears end

A two-year investigation into alleged anti-competitive trading activities by crash repair paint and consumables distributor NIBS Group could end soon.

The Office of Fair Trading has signalled that it is close to closing its inquiry, which began in April 2006 with a raid on NIBS’ offices in Long Hanborough.

NIBS is made up of 16 independent parts distributors, and has more than 50 outlets in the UK.

John Cunnington, chairman, said: “Having taken advice on the legality of our operations, we were always confident that both the structure and the operations of the NIBS Group complied fully with competition law.”

Cunnington said it was “disappointing” that the OFT had not addressed the allegations sooner, due to its other priorities.

“We are delighted that the OFT has at last done so and has decided not to pursue its investigations any further. It is, therefore, once again business as usual at NIBS Group.”

However the OFT told AM the inquiry has not officially been closed yet.

A spokeswoman said a ‘provisional case closure letter’ had been sent to NIBS, but its consultations with the parties were continuing and NIBS had “jumped the gun a little”.

Cunnington said the investigation stemmed from complaints by Morelli, which quit NIBS in August 2006.

Morelli declined to respond to claims from Cunnington that it might have profited by any customer uncertainty due to the NIBS investigation.

But AM understands it has referred NIBS’ statement to its solicitors.

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