A range of private schools have agreed to review the high price of their uniforms and provide alternative suppliers, after the Competition Commission intervened, citing unfair and anticompetitive pricing.
Investigations were launched by the commission at all schools in January last year following parents’ complaints about the exorbitant prices of uniforms and that there was only one supplier to buy from, commissioner Tembinkosi Bonakele said.
“We did all this because when schools enter into exclusive agreements with suppliers or retailers, it means these service providers are the only place parents can buy uniform items. This creates a risk of the supplier charging excessive prices as it does not face competition from any other supplier,” the commissioner explained.
But yesterday, the commission’s tribunal confirmed that various schools, including St Andrew’s School for Girls, St Andrews School Uniform Shop Trust, Curro Holdings, AdvTech, Grit Procurement Solutions, Reddam House Schools and Reddam House Shop and Reddford House Schools, had consented.
“The schools committed to improve competition in the market for the supply of school uniforms, reducing prices for parents,” Bonakele said.
The Independent Schools Association of Southern Africa (Isasa) and the Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools pledged support for uniforms to be as generic as was reasonably possible so items were available from many suppliers.
Isasa, which has a membership of 780 independent schools, advised their schools on the matter after several meetings with the commission, its director of policy and government relations Confidence Dikgole said.
“We also keep reminding members of what happens if schools don’t comply.”
Schools that fail to comply would be contravening provisions in the Competition Commission Acts, such as exclusionary conduct, Dikgole added.