/ 27 February 2019

Make it uniform: Schools agree to scrap anti-competitive behaviour

(Madelene Cronje)
(Madelene Cronje)

The Competition Commission has reached an agreement with several schools and uniform suppliers found guilty of anti-competitive behaviour.

“We are more interested in schools changing behaviour than being involved in possible lengthy and costly litigation process,” commissioner Tembinkosi Bonakele said in a statement.

The agreement between the commission and the school uniform suppliers is a pledge to “prevent violations of the Competition Act”. The pledge calls for uniforms to be as generic as possible so that they can be bought from many suppliers. The pledge also calls for schools to appoint more than one supplier to prevent monopolies and to follow a “competitive bidding process” when appointments are made. These agreements with the suppliers must also be limited in duration.

@fedsas1, @ISASAjobs & the basic #education community are reading the pledge in support of five measures to prevent potential violations of the #CompetitionAct pic.twitter.com/TPlhyUC4bd

— CompComSA (@CompComSA) February 26, 2019

The commission launched an investigation into the conduct of school uniform providers in January 2017. The probe was a result of complaints from parents about the exorbitant costs of school uniforms for many schools and how they have no choice but to pay these prices because many of the suppliers are the only ones carrying the uniforms.

READ MORE: Nothing uniform about school wear

Bonakele said the investigation was instituted because schools entering into exclusive agreements with suppliers “creates a risk of the supplier charging excessive prices as it does not face competition from any other suppliers”.

Before starting the investigation, the commission conducted a survey which revealed that out of the 1 595 schools looked at, 32% of private schools and 33% of former model C schools had exclusive agreements with suppliers.

The competition commission tribunal reached an agreement with AdvTech St Andrew’s School for Girls, St Andrews School Uniform Shop Trust, Curro Holdings Ltd, Grit Procurement Solutions, Inspired Schools and Reddam House Shop.

The commission was not able to reach agreements with the rest of the schools that it investigated but says it will continue with the probes.

“Our approach will definitely be more firm and stricter towards those in defiance. Our understanding and patience are not unlimited,” the statement reads.

#Schooluniform #pressconference : Statement by Commissioner, @TembinkosiB.
<—–Swipe to read the statement pic.twitter.com/fUvuuJ9WjQ

— CompComSA (@CompComSA) February 26, 2019

Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools (Fedsas) legal officer Juané van der Merwe told the Mail & Guardian that Fedsas also signed the memorandum of understanding issued by the commission.

“We decided to work together with the commission to take the necessary steps to ensure that there is an end to anti-competitive behaviour in uniform supply.”

Van der Merwe added that the federation would engage with all its members across the country to ensure that the pledge made is adhered to and implemented.

“We are going to educate our members and ensure that they advocate and negotiate the best deals for parents at schools. It’s important to have uniforms be as generic as possible because special items contribute to the high costs,” van der Merwe added.