Morrisons has asked the UK's competition watchdog to publicly clarify the retailer's position in the ongoing investigation into alleged dairy price-fixing.

The UK's fourth-largest grocer remains part of the ongoing inquiry into claims that retailers and dairy processors fixed the price of milk, butter and cheese in 2002 and 2003.

Last week, three retailers - Asda, Sainsbury and Safeway - and three dairy firms admitted they had colluded to fix prices in return for reduced fines.

However, Morrisons, alongside rival grocer Tesco and dairy processor Lactalis McLelland remains part of the probe into the affair, which the Office of Fair Trading claims cost consumers some GBP270m (US$546m).

Yesterday (13 December), the OFT issued a surprise statement on the behest of Morrisons in which it explicitly stated why the retailer remains under suspicion.

"The OFT's provisional findings are that Morrisons colluded in respect of certain liquid milk products in 2002 only," the watchdog said.

"Morrisons is not the subject of any further infringement allegations in the [investigation] in respect of any other dairy products or any other years, and the OFT's provisional findings do not allege that Morrisons had been warned by the OFT that its conduct might be anti-competitive."

Last week, the OFT reached an agreement with Safeway, the UK grocer bought by Morrisons in 2004, for its conduct in the affair.

The OFT added: "This clarification relates only to Morrisons and excludes Morrisons' Safeway subsidiaries, which are treated as a separate party in this investigation. The provisional findings in relation to Safeway concerns conduct which took place prior to its acquisition by Morrisons."

Officials at Morrisons had failed to return requests for comment as just-food went to press.