Competition Commission unveils school uniform proposal

File: The Competition Commission is pushing for an open market for suppliers who can compete fairly and provide affordability for disadvantaged pupils. Photo: eNCA/Sthembiso Zulu

JOHANNESBURG - The Competition Commission has made a tentative proposal that schools reduce exclusive contracts and open up the market for other suppliers of uniforms.

The commission is probing the issue after it received complaints about high prices and anti-competitive behaviour.

In an ongoing investigation into the R10-billion sector, some initial recommendations have been agreed upon, pending the finalisation of the probe.

The commission is pushing for an open market for suppliers who can compete fairly and provide affordability, especially for disadvantaged pupils.

“Schools that decide to buy from particular suppliers sometimes shop within the schools themselves, but they should follow a competitive bidding process when appointing suppliers,” Competition Commissioner Tembinkosi Bonakele said.

“This is required by the Constitution, it’s not even a choice… We are also recommending that you appoint more than one supplier if you are going to have some form of restriction so that in the year, there is some form of competition.”

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One big supplier who has welcomed the investigation says it is very hard for smaller suppliers to thrive in this market.

“The Competition Commission doesn’t understand that there is not always someone else available to supply school uniform because it is a very difficult business to get into or to operate [in],” Constantia Outfitters’ Dawie Oosthuysen said.

“We carry huge stocks and we have four months in the year where we have good sales… So for a new person to come into this business and who don’t understand this field, they just don’t make it.”

The commission says generic uniforms could be introduced with a separate school crest.

It says it will release its report in coming weeks.


 

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