The Office of Fair Trading (“OFT”) has launched a fact-finding study into the school uniforms market.   

The chief executive of the OFT, John Fingleton, said the aim of the study was to "allow the OFT to see whether exclusive contracts between schools and retailers have an adverse effect in the prices paid by parents, as well as the quality and value of school uniforms."

The fact-finding study appears to have been commenced as a result of complaints to the OFT from parents, concerned about high prices and poor quality clothes from school nominated outlets.  Other complaints have been received from retailers who have complained about the market being closed to their competition. 

As part of the study, the OFT has already written to around 10,000 schools asking if they allow parents a choice on where to purchase the uniforms from.  This is to establish how many schools require parents to purchase uniform from either a retailer designated by the school or the school itself. 

The OFT has not indicated when it is likely to conclude its fact finding study but following its conclusion it could launch a full market study or take competition law enforcement action.

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