The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has claimed John Lewis, Debenhams and House of Fraser colluded with manufacturer DB Apparel, to fix the price of sports bras.
According to the OFT, the bra maker made up to nine anti-competitive deals with the three department stores over four years, starting in 2008.
The agreements were designed to push-up the price of the sporting garments across all outlets, something the OFT has called a ‘serious’ infringement of competition law.
‘These alleged agreements had the aim of increasing the retail prices of DBA's Shock Absorber brand of sports bras in each of the three department stores,’ the OFT said.
Between 2008 and 2011, the Shock Absorber range by DB Apparel, supported 15% of the sports bra market. Today, the bras cost £27 at John Lewis. The store could certainly claim it was ‘never knowingly undersold’ in that department.
The department stores are being ‘upfront’ with the OFT and cooperating with the watchdog.
‘We are co-operating fully with the Office of Fair Trading and the ongoing investigation and will respond accordingly,’ said a spokesperson from House of Fraser.
‘We are confident that we have been operating within all laws and regulations and are very supportive of any initiative which ensures pricing policies are fair for our customers.’
It’s the last thing House of Fraser needs, at is readies itself to float, valuing the company at around £300m. Debenhams’ share price has dropped by 1.28% this morning;
No doubt all three stores will be keen to draw an underwire beneath the whole affair.