The news of the development, revealed in its October bulletin by the office of the pubs code adjudicator, came after campaigners called on PCA Paul Newby to make a report to the Government.
The bulletin made clear that Newby had received a number of enquiries as to whether he would report to Secretary of State for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy Greg Clarke on the issue following a recent review into the working of MRO.
The review, published in August, revealed that pub-owning businesses (POBs) were blocking tied tenants’ access to MRO. It highlighted incidents where POBs had withheld information, offered unreasonably high rents and failed to engage in meaningful negotiations.
Campaigners had called on him to make a report to the Government on "unfair business practices" following the review. But Newby is looking into the issue using his current powers and has questioned the pubcos and conducted one-to-one interviews.
“Mr Newby is rigorously pursuing tenants’ concerns with the pub-owning businesses and intends to publish the outcome of that work in the coming weeks. He is prepared to use his statutory enforcement powers to ensure compliance, if necessary,” the October bulletin said.
However, the PCA said that its power to make a report to the secretary of state was a “different matter”. It said the powers related to the effectiveness of the Pubs Code not its enforcement.
According to the PCA, the legislation provides Newby with a mechanism to make recommendations to ministers about any business practices that are unfair to tied pub tenants and are designed to avoid the pubs code, but not about breaches.
“The PCA will not make such a report unless he is satisfied that any action of a pub-owning business meets this definition,” it said.
Meanwhile, the PCA is launching a tenant survey to investigate awareness of the pubs code and how it is working in practice.
Newby has commissioned the survey with independent research company Growth for Knowledge (GfK), to carry out telephone interviews during November.
It will speak to 400 tenants across the six pub-owning businesses of Punch, Ei, Star Pubs & Bars, Greene King, Marston’s and Admiral Taverns. Licensees will be contacted directly by GfK and interviews should take about 15 minutes.
The survey will cover topics such as tenants’ awareness of their code rights, their experiences in exercising these rights and their relationship with their pub company. It will also look at how the PCA can share information more effectively with tenants in future.
The results of the survey will be published in early 2018 and all responses will be confidential and non-attributable.