OFT alleges that Debenhams, House of Fraser and John Lewis fixed sports bra prices
The Office of Fair Trading has alleged that Debenhams, House of Fraser and John Lewis colluded with bra maker DB Apparel UK to fix the price of its sports bras.
The competition regulator claimed in a Statement of Objections issued to DB Apparel and the three department stores that they had infringed competition law by entering into resale price maintenance agreements that set a fixed or minimum resale price on the bras.
The OFT has alleged that DB Apparel entered into a total of nine anti-competitive agreements with John Lewis, Debenhams, and House of Fraser between 2008 and 2011 with the aim of increasing the retail prices of DBA's Shock Absorber brand of sports bras in each of the three department stores.
The OFT said the alleged agreements applied on a nationwide basis to numerous products within the Shock Absorber range. During the four-year period in question, DBA's Shock Absorber range of sports bras was one of the leading UK brands with a share of approximately 15% of the market.
In a statement, the OFT said its provisional view is that each of the agreements amounted to resale price maintenance, which was a serious infringement of competition law.
Ann Pope, OFT senior director of services, infrastructure and public markets, said:"The OFT takes allegations of price-fixing seriously. Resale price maintenance limits competition between retailers and can lead to consumers paying higher prices."
However she added: "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."
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