JD Sports fined £1.5m for fixing retail prices

The UK’s competition watchdog has issued fines totalling £2 million to JD Sports, Elite Sports, and Rangers after it found they fixed retail prices on Rangers-branded merchandise.

The penalties follow an investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) into the suspected fixing of prices for Rangers FC replica kits and other clothing products between September 2018 and July 2019.

The regulator said that all three organisations colluded to stop JD Sports undercutting the retail price of certain items on Elite’s Gers Online store.

JD Sports received the largest fine of nearly £1.5 million, whilst Elite Sports faced a penalty of £459,000 and Rangers was forced to pay £225,000.

During the 10-month period, Elite was the manufacturer of Rangers-branded clothing and also sold Rangers-branded products directly through its Gers Online store and later in bricks-and-mortar shops in Glasgow and Belfast.

JD Sports was the only UK-wide major retailer selling those products at the time.

The CMA's probe found that Rangers FC was concerned JD Sports was selling its Rangers replica top at a lower price than Elite, which was seen at the time as the club’s retail partner.

This led to an understanding between the three firms that JD Sports would increase its retail price of the Rangers adult short-sleeved home replica shirt by nearly 10 per cent, from £55 to £60, to bring it in line with the prices being charged by Elite on Gers Online.

“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,” said Michael Grenfell, executive Director of Enforcement at the CMA. “Instead, Elite, JD Sports and, to some extent, Rangers, worked together to keep prices high.”

Grenfell said the move sends a “clear message” to football clubs and other businesses that illegal anti-competitive collusion will “not be tolerated” by the competition authority.

In a statement to shareholders, JD Sports said that it has co-operated fully with the CMA throughout its investigation.

In June, the sports fashion brand announced it would recognise a provision of approximately £2 million in its financial statements for the 52 weeks to 29 January 2022 representing the Group's best estimate of the liability payable in respect of the matter, including associated legal costs.

JD Sports assured investors that no directors or senior management were involved in price fixing.

"JD has taken a number of steps to strengthen its competition compliance programme and is committed to ensuring that this is embedded into its daily operations," it concluded.

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