UK competition watchdog alleges price-fixing in bra market

LONDON (REUTERS) - Britain's three biggest department stores colluded with a garment manufacturer to fix the price of one of the nation's leading sports bra brands, the UK competition watchdog alleged on Friday.

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) alleged that manufacturer DB Apparel UK Limited entered into nine anti-competitive agreements with department stores John Lewis, Debenhams and House of Fraser between 2008 and 2011.

It believes they infringed competition law by entering into resale price maintenance agreements that set a fixed or minimum resale price on numerous products within the Shock Absorber sports bra range on a nationwide basis.

The OFT said that during the three years in question, the Shock Absorber range had a market share of about 15 per cent.

"The OFT takes allegations of price-fixing seriously. Resale price maintenance limits competition between retailers and can lead to consumers paying higher prices," said Ms Ann Pope, OFT Senior Director of Services.

She said 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 (OFT's) Statement of Objections before deciding whether competition law has in fact been infringed."