On 10 January 2022, the Competition Commission released a media statement it termed "a call to action" for schools, school bodies and parents regarding the procurement of school uniforms. For some time, the procurement of school uniforms has been on the Commission's radar for its potential anti-competitive effects.
The Commission urged the school community to adhere to the following principles with regards to the supply of school of uniforms:
- the design should be as generic as possible with only a few exclusive designs, such as badges, that need to be obtained from particular suppliers so that uniforms may be procured from many different suppliers;
- if a school appoints suppliers, it should appoint more than one in order to give parents an option; and
- where a school appoints suppliers, a competitive bidding process should be undertaken and any agreements entered into should be for a limited duration.
School principals in particular must ensure that parents are made aware of the choices they may exercise when buying school uniforms. The Commission highlighted that it will be monitoring compliance with these guidelines and will carry out a survey to assess compliance. In its statement, the Commission warned that it is now ready to prosecute and impose penalties on those who engage in anti-competitive conduct regarding the procurement of school uniforms.
Simply put, schools, suppliers and those involved in the procurement of school uniforms beware, the Commission is watching
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