CMA warns online retailers over price fixing

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has warned online retailers about price fixing in the run-up to Black Friday.

With one of the busiest shopping periods of the year fast approaching, the CMA has reminded online sellers that discussing and agreeing price levels with competitors is illegal and can result in “serious” penalties.

The CMA has already written to a number of online sellers that may be denying customers the best deals, reminding them of their obligations under competition law. It has also been in contact with online marketplace providers, which are helping to make the CMA’s advice available to retailers.

Its key warnings are that online sellers should not:

  • Agree with their competitors what prices they will charge, or that they won’t undercut each other on price;
  • Discuss their pricing intentions or strategies with competitors.

Stephen Blake, senior director of the CMA’s Cartels and Criminal Group, said: “Online markets are a hugely valuable tool for consumers to shop around and find the best-value products, making the most of effective competition. But these benefits for shoppers are put at risk if the suppliers seek to restrict competition between them.

“The CMA is strongly committed to tackling anticompetitive behaviour in online markets. Entering into agreements that limit price competition cheats consumers, is illegal, and can have serious consequences for the companies and individuals involved.

“We recognise that the majority of online sellers want to comply with the law. As we enter the peak shopping months of November and December, sellers should make sure they have read our advice so they don’t get caught out. The consequences for those who don’t can be serious.”

  • More information on the CMA’s campaign and advice for online retailers can be found here.