CMA launches campaign to help online sellers avoid breaching competition law ahead of Christmas shopping season

The Competition and Markets Authority (“CMA”) has announced a campaign intended to help online sellers avoid breaching competition law. 

This appears to be timed to coincide with the start of the busy Christmas shopping season as well as ‘black Friday’. As part of its campaign the CMA has:

  • published guidance targeted at online sellers intended to explain what price fixing is and how online sellers can avoid breaching competition law;
  • written to a number of companies that it considers may be falling foul of competition law to remind them of their obligations;
  • engaged with online marketplace providers to help disseminate the CMA’s guidance to online sellers.

This campaign has been launched against the background of the CMA’s decision to impose a fine of over £160,000 on Trod Limited (“Trod”), an online seller of posters and frames, for entering into a price-fixing agreement with GB eye Limited (trading as GB Posters (“GB”)). Trod and GB used automated repricing software to implement their agreement not to undercut each other’s pricing when selling on Amazon’s UK website. GB did not receive a fine as it informed the CMA of the cartel in accordance with the CMA’s leniency policy and cooperated with the investigation.

The CMA’s key warnings are that businesses selling online should not:

  • agree with their competitors what prices they will charge, or that they won’t undercut each other on price;
  • discuss their pricing intentions or strategies with competitors.

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