Three out of 10 schools cited in school uniform price probe

The Competition Commission says its investigation into anti-competitive behaviour in the school uniform industry seeks to ensure that parents pay reasonable prices and get quality items.

The commission’s spokesperson‚ Sipho Ngwema‚ on Tuesday told Radio 702 that its investigation was at an advanced stage and will be released in the next few weeks.

The investigation according to Ngwema‚ came about after they received numerous complaints from parents and prospective suppliers.

“We received complaints as far back as 2015 from parents‚ complaining about the anti-competitive behaviour in the school uniform industry‚ where parents were compelled to buy from one supplier.”

He said the commission also received complaints that the contracts the suppliers had with the schools were life long and other suppliers were not given the opportunity to bid for those contracts.

“After having done some advocacy and talking to various schools and governing bodies‚ we still received more complaints from parents and various stakeholders‚ that the anti-competitive behaviour was continuing‚ so we then officially launched an investigation in January 2017 to look into the issues of anti-competitive behaviour.

“That came after the department had issued a circular in 2015 urging schools to be generic as possible in terms of school uniform and make sure it is obtainable from many suppliers and also ensure that the contracts they conclude with suppliers are of limited duration‚” Ngwema said.

He said a survey the commission did revealed that there was a large portion of schools that were still involved in anti-competitive behaviour and that some schools had exclusive contracts which did not go through a bidding process.

“The investigation is at an advanced stage and should be released in the next few weeks.

“We will make the announcement on how we are going to deal with the findings because we have discovered that more than 30% of schools are still involved in anti-competitive behaviour.”

“We want to make sure that parents are exposed to reasonable prices and quality items‚” he said.

In its investigation‚ the commission has also discovered that there is a school that has had a contract with one supplier since 1974.

Ngwema said the commission will look into imposing penalties on those schools that have been found to be on the wrong side of the law.

“It [imposing penalties] is one of the possibilities. We can approach the tribunal and seek remedies; one of those can be a fine.”

By: Nomahlubi Jordaan – TimesLIVE

Source: TMG Digital.