UK regulator to probe price manipulation of sports bra by three major stores [Big News Network (United Arab Emirates)]
(Big News Network (United Arab Emirates) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge)
LONDON - The UK anti-competition regulator Friday accused three major department stores of colluding with a manufacturer of sports bras to manipulate the retail price.
In a statement of objections, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has alleged that Debenhams, John Lewis and House of Fraser had agreed to set the prices of the Shock Absorber range of bras, made by DB Apparel UK.
The OFT has alleged that DB Apparel UK Limited (DBA) entered into nine anti-competitive agreements with John Lewis plc, Debenhams Retail plc and House of Fraser (Stores) Limited between 2008 and 2011.
These alleged agreements were aimed at increasing the retail prices of DBA's Shock Absorber brand of sports bras in each of the three department stores.
The alleged agreements applied on a nationwide basis to numerous products within the Shock Absorber range. During the period in question DBA's Shock Absorber range of sports bras was one of the leading UK brands with a share of approximately 15 per cent of the market.
The OFT's provisional view is that each of the agreements amounted to resale price maintenance, a serious infringement of competition law. Resale price maintenance occurs when a supplier specifies the resale price of the product to retailers and the retailers agree to the price set.
Ann Pope, OFT Senior Director of Services, Infrastructure and Public Markets, said: "Resale price maintenance limits competition between retailers and can lead to consumers paying higher prices.'
The official clarified that "no assumption should be made at this stage that there has been an infringement of competition law. We will carefully consider the parties' representations to the Statement of Objections before deciding whether competition law has in fact been infringed."
DB Apparel rejected the OFT allegations while the retailers said they were confident they had not broken the law.
"We have been transparent with UK authorities since the beginning of this process and will continue to defend ourselves vigorously in this investigation," a DB Apparel spokesperson said.
Spokespersons of all the three retail houses contended that there have been no violations of law on their side and they were cooperating with the ongoing investigations.
A House of Fraser spokesperson said: "We are confident that we have been operating within all laws and regulations and are very supportive of any initiative which ensures pricing policies are fair for our customers."
A John Lewis spokesperson said: "John Lewis always strives to operate within the law and comply with regulations. We are fully cooperating with the OFT and will respond in due course."
A Debenhams spokesperson said: "Debenhams plc disputes these provisional findings of the OFT but is not in a position to comment further at this stage. The matter is being dealt with by its external lawyers."
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