The three biggest UK department stores conspired to fix the price of a market-leading sports bra and may be fined, a government competition regulator said on Friday (Sept. 20).
The UK Office of Fair Trading alleged that John Lewis, Debenhams and House of Fraser made anticompetitive agreements with French supplier DB Apparel UK between 2008 and 2011. According to the OFT, the four companies broke competition law by entering into resale price maintenance agreements, setting fixed or minimum resale prices for sports bras in DB's popular Shock Absorber line.
DB Apparel, Debenhams and House of Fraser denied the government agency's allegations, while John Lewis said it "strives to operate within the law and comply with regulations," Reuters reported.
The OFT has the power to fine offenders up to 10 percent of their annual worldwide sales. The regulator said that during the 2008 to 2011 period, the Shock Absorber sports bras had a UK market share of about 15 percent.
The bra's maker, DB Apparel, rejected OFT's provisional findings. "We have been transparent with UK authorities since the beginning of this process and will continue to defend ourselves vigorously in this investigation," it said. Debenhams also disputed the allegations, saying the matter was being dealt with by outside lawyers. House of Fraser said it has not broken the law and "are very supportive of any initiative which ensures pricing policies are fair for our customers."
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