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Competition Commission probes school uniform market

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January is usually a stressful for parents as they deal with the exorbitant costs of basic school requirements such as school uniforms which often can run into thousands of rands. The Competition Commission has issued schools with a memorandum to exclude exclusivity deals with certain retailers, after complaints from parents frustrated at the monopolised school uniform market.

The Commission has received many complaints from parents about the exclusive agreements between schools and school uniform suppliers.

“Parents say they are forced to buy these uniforms from pre-selected suppliers and they are unhappy about it as they have to pay high prices,” says spokesperson for the commission, Itumeleng Lesof.

A monopolisation of the market has forced parents to buy from one particular outlet at high prices.

Parents have been plagued by affordability problems, sparked by an agreement between suppliers and schools.

A holistic approach has been implemented through the engagement of the Commission with school governing bodies and suppliers.
Schools have been issued with instructions to appoint various suppliers by the Commission.

According to Lesof, the Competition Act does not prohibit this transaction as no person or outlet is supposed to restrict the competitive market of another business nor should it restrict the customer’s buying power.

“People can’t be told that they can only buy at one place especially if they cannot afford it. This violates their consumer rights and is against the Competition Act,” says Lesof.

Last July, the government issued secular schools to allow school uniforms to be general.

The Commission says that general uniforms leaves parents spoilt for choice when purchasing their children’s uniforms.

“Parents should be able to buy where ever they want,” says Lesof.

Lesof adds that generic items should not be excluded from the market. VOC (Nailah Cornelissen)

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