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Competition Commission ready to tackle anticompetitive conduct over sale of school uniforms

11 January 2022 - 06:10 By TIMESLIVE
A pupil in uniform watches a science demonstration. Stock photo.
A pupil in uniform watches a science demonstration. Stock photo.
Image: 123RF/sunshineseeds

As the 2022 academic year is about to get under way, the Competition Commission of SA has urged school governing bodies, parents and the community to adhere to guidelines on school uniforms.

The commission said on Monday it was ready to “prosecute and push for penalties against suppliers and schools that engage in anticompetitive conduct”.

The guidelines aim to make uniforms as generic as possible so they can be obtained from as many suppliers as possible. They also include:

• Where deemed necessary, exclusivity should be limited only to a few ‘must’ items that the schools regard as necessary to obtain from preselected suppliers [such as a school badge];

• Where there are approved suppliers, schools should follow a competitive bidding process when appointing such suppliers;

• Schools should appoint more than one supplier to give parents more options; and

• The concluded agreements should be of limited duration so that schools can continuously check the market to obtain the best offering for parents.

“The commission will continue to monitor compliance in this area. This will include a survey that will be rolled out in the next few weeks to assess the level of compliance. Having run educational and advocacy programmes for compliance, the commission is now ready to prosecute and push for penalties against suppliers and schools that engage in anticompetitive conduct,” it said in a statement on Monday.

“The commission is further inviting all schools to sign an Undertaking to Comply with Competition Principles in School Uniform Procurement as a commitment to practise pro-competitive procurement. The undertaking can be found on the commission’s website www.compcom.co.za

The call comes as it emerged that one of four parents across SA failed to pay school fees last year, while 15.6% only managed to make a partial payment.

This was one of the shocking findings of research conducted by TPN Credit Bureau into parents’ ability to pay fees, reported Sunday Times Daily.

Michelle Dickens, CEO of TPN Credit Bureau, said that while bad debt was an issue before the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020, “this has been worsened by loss of or reduced income”.

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