King’s Lynn Mart bosses ‘may be breaking competition law’

King's Lynn Mart rides have been dismantled and ready for the off
Clean up on the Tuesday Market Place is in full swing, with the Borough Council Staff. ANL-160229-081737009
King's Lynn Mart rides have been dismantled and ready for the off Clean up on the Tuesday Market Place is in full swing, with the Borough Council Staff. ANL-160229-081737009

The organisation which runs Lynn’s historic Mart may be operating in breach of competition laws, according to a trade regulator.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has this week issued a statement of objections to the Showmen’s Guild of Great Britain, which stages the annual event in the Tuesday Market Place.

It alleges that some of the guild’s rules prevent other operators from staging rival events and reduce value for money for visitors.

The guild says it will submit its response to the claims in the next few weeks.

Although full details of the allegations against the guild have not been disclosed, the announcement follows an investigation of the group’s activities which began in December last year.

According to the CMA, the guild is responsible for 90 per cent of the travelling fairs that operate in Britain, generating around £100 million a year.

The authority claims the guild’s rules prevent members from organising rival events and restricts the ability of non-guild members from staging their own fairs.

It also claims there is “little incentive” for fair organisers, including councils, to improve what is on offer, thus reducing choice for consumers.

It further highlighted the cancellation of a fair in Newcastle three years ago after the guild boycotted the event in protest at reforms it did not agree with.

The guild has previously been in dispute with West Norfolk Council over reforms it wanted to make to the Mart following the death of a three-year-old boy in a collision with a car close to the fair site during the 2012 event.

Although a new six year operations programme was subsequently agreed, that only covers the period up to 2020.

Senior director Ann Pope said: “These are provisional findings only and no conclusion can be drawn at this stage that there has been a breach of competition law.

“We will carefully consider any representations before deciding whether the law has been broken.”

Showmen’s Guild general secretary Keith Miller said it would not be commenting publicly on the claims until it has submitted its formal response to the CMA.

The guild, and any other interested parties, has until January 11 to request a copy of the statement.

The CMA says it expects responses to their statement to be made in the spring.

West Norfolk Council was also asked to comment on the issue, but declined to do so.