John Lewis, Debenhams and House of Fraser have been accused of price-fixing sports bras through a series of agreements with manufacturer DB Apparel.
The Office for Fair Trading (OFT) claims the three department stores entered into nine anti-competitive agreements over DB Apparel’s Shock Absorber range between 2008 and 2011, seeking to increase the range’s retail prices.
The agreements “applied on a nationwide basis to numerous products” within the Shock Absorber range, the OFT argues.
The body described the action as “a serious infringement of competition law”.
Ann Pope, the OFT’s denior 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.
“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.”
If proved, the infringements could lead to fines of up to 10% of annual worldwide turnover.
The four businesses now have the opportunity to respond to these allegations prior to the OFT’s final decision.