JD Sports fined £1.5m over football kit price fixing
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) found that Elite Sports – the manufacturer of Rangers-branded clothing and products at the time – and JD Sports broke the law.
It found they fixed retail prices of a number of Rangers-branded replica kits and other clothing products between September 2018 and July 2019.
Further, the CMA said Rangers FC also took part in the collusion “but only to the extent of fixing the retail price of adult home short-sleeved replica shirts” in the three months to November 2018.
The fine comes as the CMA said all three firms colluded to stop JD Sports undercutting the retail price of the shirt on Elite’s Gers Online store.
‘Worked together to keep prices high’
During the time of the infringement, as well as being the manufacturer of Rangers-branded clothing, Elite also sold Rangers-branded products directly through its Gers Online store and later in bricks-and-mortar shops in Glasgow and Belfast. The only UK-wide major retailer selling those products at the time was JD Sports.
Rangers FC became concerned that at the start of the 2018 to 2019 football season, JD Sports was selling the Rangers replica top at a lower price than Elite, which was seen at the time as the club’s ‘retail partner’.
This resulted in an understanding between the three parties that JD Sports would increase its retail price of the Rangers adult short-sleeved home replica shirt by nearly 10%, from £55 to £60, to bring it in line with the prices being charged by Elite on Gers Online.
The CMA also found that Elite and JD Sports – without involvement from Rangers – colluded to fix the retail prices of Rangers-branded clothing, including training wear and replica kit, over a longer period. This included aligning the level and timing of discounts towards the end of the football season in 2019, to avoid competition and protect their profit margins.
‘Collusion will not be tolerated’
Michael Grenfell, executive director of enforcement at the CMA, said: “At a time when many people are worried about the rising cost of living, it is important that football fans are able to benefit from competitively priced merchandise.
“Instead, Elite, JD Sports and, to some extent, Rangers, worked together to keep prices high.
“Today’s decision sends a clear message to football clubs and other businesses that illegal anti-competitive collusion will not be tolerated.”
Back in June, JD Sports set aside £2m after admitted to cartel activity and was issued with a draft penalty notice.
Today a statement from JD Sports read: “JD has co-operated fully with the CMA throughout this investigation, including taking swift steps to apply for leniency and agreeing to settle the investigation. As a consequence, the CMA has applied a substantial discount in determining its final penalty of £1.485 million. In accordance with the CMA’s standard terms of settlement, JD will not be appealing against this penalty.
“JD is committed to offering great value to its customers with a best-in-class multichannel retail experience.”
YourMoney.com has approached Rangers FC and Elite for comment.