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Clamp-down on multinational supermarket chains: are Hungarian retailers really better?

May 25th, 2012

The deputy editor of the main right-wing daily asks why the government only puts pressure on multinational chain stores, rather than on every retailer caught cheating.

Several attempts by consumer protection and other national agencies have been aimed at punishing international hyper- and supermarkets in favour of domestic competitors. This was done in different ways, from banning further expansion to close scrutiny. CBA – a supermarket franchise chain founded by the carriage driving world champion Lázár brothers, strong supporters of the Hungarian right – is widely believed to be the intended beneficiary of such measures.

In an editorial in Thursday’s Magyar Nemzet, deputy editor-in-chief Gábor D. Horváth remarks that leading officials have made conflicting statements on how big food chains should be treated. Imre Pesti, head of the Budapest government office has threatened multinational corporations with heavy sanctions, including the closure of their retail units, if they are found “cheating”. Endre Kardeván, however, the state secretary in charge of food safety, says that the food supply would collapse in Hungary without the international chains, and the government has no plans to close down any of them. Gábor Horváth suggests there is no reason to suppose that Hungarian-owned chains are above reproach. Kardeván might be naive – Horváth writes – but Pesti’s threat to bring supermarkets into line is only meaningful if it is applied to all food retailers equally.

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