On 26 April 2016, the Competition and Markets Authority (“CMA”) confirmed, following settlement, that it will issue a formal infringement decision to bathroom fittings manufacturer Ultra Finishing Limited (“Ultra”) following investigations opened back in August 2014 into suspected vertical price restraints in place between suppliers and resellers.
In our previous update on this issue, we reported that the CMA had, on 28 January 2016, disclosed provisional findings of anti-competitive behaviour in a Statements of Objections. In response, Ultra stated that it “accepts fully the CMA’s findings” and admitted that during 2012 and 2014 it did indeed, as alleged in the SO, engage in resale price maintenance in contravention of the Chapter I prohibition of the Competition Act 1998 and Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (“TFEU”). Ultra has now agreed to pay a penalty of up to £1,032,502 (discounted by 20% through settlement terms to a maximum of £826,001).
The CMA has only addressed their decision to Ultra, and not any other suppliers and retailers who were party to the agreements.
Ann Pope (Senior Director, CMA) has stated that “the CMA takes such vertical price-fixing seriously and is focused on tackling anti-competitive practices that diminish the many benefits of e-commerce.” In a continued effort to limit restrictive agreements and practices, the CMA is now expected to increase the breadth of its investigations to other bathroom fittings suppliers and manufacturers within the UK.