Gauteng-based uniform supplier must end exclusive deals with schools

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Parents have complained about being forced into buying school uniforms from certain suppliers only.
Parents have complained about being forced into buying school uniforms from certain suppliers only.
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The Competition Commission has welcomed the Competition Tribunal’s consent agreement with uniform supplier McCullagh and Bothwell, that puts an end to exclusive supply deals.

McCullagh & Bothwell opened its first schoolwear store in Johannesburg in 1906. It has three stores in Hyde Park, Observatory, and Fourways.

The company supplies school uniforms to various schools, including the Crawford school group and Dainfern College.

The tribunal confirmed the agreement as an order last week. Its decision follows years of complaints from parents about being forced to buy uniforms from certain suppliers only, prompting investigations by the commission.

"The order effectively terminates all exclusive supply agreements on the procurement of school uniform while guaranteeing parents and learners choice and an opportunity to shop around for competitive prices for school uniform and other learning materials,” said the commission in a statement on Wednesday.

In terms of the agreement, McCullagh and Bothwell must:

  • Not have an evergreen agreement to supply any school with uniforms;
  • Remove exclusivity clauses from any current agreements with schools;
  • Ensure that agreements are not longer than five years; and
  • Inform the commission of schools that have not implemented the changes by May 2022.

The commission added that it will keep an eye on McCullagh & Bothwell to ensure that the family owned company, which also makes menswear, complies with the agreement.

"The commission will also, through its partnership with the School Governing Body Associations, monitor general compliance by all schools in the country to ensure that they adhere to the guidelines on school uniform and comply with the principles that promote pro-competitive sourcing of school uniform," said the competition watchdog.

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