LEGISLATORS urged the Government to ensure fair competition in the newspaper market following allegations by the new Apple Daily that rivals had forced distributors to shun the newspaper. Loh Chan, editor-in-chief of Apple Daily - which is owned by Next Magazine and Giordano clothing chain founder Jimmy Lai Chee-ying - told the Legislative Council's information policy panel yesterday that no agent was willing to sell his paper because of pressure from the five main Chinese-language newspapers. Hawkers had been told they could not sell the five titles if they distributed Apple Daily, he added. The five papers wanted to maintain a cartel and it would drastically increase Apple Daily's costs if it had to set up its own distribution network, he said. However, Mr Loh refused to name the five newspapers. The Apple Daily plan to enter the market with a concessionary price of $2 has drawn criticism from other newspapers. At present, all Chinese-language newspapers cost $5. Democratic Party legislator Albert Chan Wai-Yip said the Government should look into the allegations and make sure there was fair competition in the industry. Independent legislator Anna Wu Hung-yuk said the Government should consider including conditions that would prohibit unfair competition in the licensing system of distributing agents. However, Principal Assistant Secretary for Home Affairs Jeremy Croft said the Government would be reluctant to intervene. Its role was to provide a level playing field but not set the rules of the game. The industry body, the Newspaper Society of Hong Kong, refused to appear at the Legco meeting, saying yesterday the allegations were groundless because Apple Daily could not give any evidence.