The Competition Tribunal has confirmed a consent agreement with Gauteng-based company McCullagh and Bothwell, ending an exclusivity supply agreement deal around school uniforms.
The consent order follows years of investigations into complaints received from parents who said they were forced to buy school uniforms from exclusive suppliers.
The order, the commission said, effectively terminates all exclusive supply agreements on the procurement of school uniforms while guaranteeing parents and learners’ choice and an opportunity to shop around for competitive prices for school uniforms and other learning materials.
In terms of the consent agreement, McCullagh and Bothwell has undertaken the following:
- Not to enter into any evergreen supply agreement with any school;
- To amend all its existing supply agreements with schools to remove any exclusivity or clause recognising McCullagh and Bothwell as a “sole stockist” of uniform for a particular school;
- To ensure that all supply agreements have a termination date not exceeding 5 years; and
- To provide the Commission with a list if schools that have not effected the changes by May 2022.
The commission, through its partnership with school governing body associations, said it will monitor general compliance by all schools in the country to ensure that they adhere to the guidelines on school uniforms and comply with the principles that promote pro-competitive sourcing of school uniforms.
“The commission will also continue to create awareness around anti-competitive practices in the procurement of school uniform and other learning-related material. The commission has produced an educational pamphlet for schools, parents and school governing bodies on the importance of competition in the procurement of school uniform and other learning-related material.”
The regulator said that the educational pamphlet also provides a guide on the role that schools, parents and school governing bodies can play to help lower prices.
In March, Basic Education minister Angie Motshekga spoke frankly about the ongoing struggle with the price of school uniforms, as parents battle to make ends meet. The minister said the commission and the department were working around the clock to ensure school uniforms are affordable and accessible in the country. However, Motshekga said that scrapping school uniforms was not a viable option.
“Home clothes are a big problem because they’re a social indicator and if you remove school uniforms you’re going to begin to show which kids come from rich families and those who don’t.”