The CMA is concerned that the effect of restricting uniform suppliers/outlets, setting of prices and long term exclusive arrangements could breach competition law. Although the main target audience of the letter is the maintained schools/academy sector, a CMA spokesperson has confirmed that the principles should also apply to the independent sector.
Significant numbers of schools, seeking to maintain quality and consistency, may have placed restrictions on outlets providing uniforms, but this, in turn, can lead to increased costs for parents and carers.
The CMA has intervened (following concerns first raised in 2006 and then in 2012), advising schools to carry out a review of current practices and to take action where those arrangements do not appear to be offering value for money. The CMA considers that increasing competition is likely to provide greater choice for parents and carers, and will encourage suppliers and retailers to offer improved deals to win new business.
In the open letter, schools are recommended to:
If you have a current exclusive arrangement, suppliers are advised to check it very carefully to ensure that it and your pricing policy do not fall foul of competition law.
The CMA has confirmed that it will continue to monitor whether school uniform arrangements are anti-competitive and, if so, whether enforcement action should be taken. Across the sector, further engagement will also be entered into with national associations and regional schools commissioners to encourage further change.
VWV can help with reviewing your uniform purchasing arrangements for compliance and advice on procurement processes to put in place new contracts.