Commerce Commission Releases Guidelines on School Uniforms

(LAWFUEL) – The Commerce Commission is issuing guidelines today to provide information and guidance to schools when they enter into arrangements for the supply of school uniforms. The Commerce Act prohibits conduct that restricts competition.

The guidelines follow an investigation prompted by numerous complaints about the limited supplier choice and high prices charged for school uniforms. The guidelines are not intended as formal legal advice.

“Buying school uniforms is a significant cost for parents. While exclusive arrangements can provide benefits for schools, such as rebates or gifts to support school activities, they also reduce parental choice and can result in increased prices,” said Deborah Battell, Commerce Commission Director of Competition.

“Exclusive arrangements can also achieve consistent quality and design. A single supplier may also ensure efficiency of production which may result in lower prices,” said Ms Battell.

The guidelines advise schools to take into account both the benefits to the school and the price of the uniforms and to take particular care where there is an exclusive supplier arrangement.

The guidelines suggest schools consider conducting competitive tenders on a regular basis if an exclusive arrangement is preferred; appointing multiple suppliers if demand is sufficient; and choosing suppliers based on objective criteria.

School boards are advised to fully inform parents of the reasons for any exclusive arrangement, the board’s process for choosing the supplier and to be transparent about any financial benefit that the school is receiving from the supplier. School boards should also advise parents of the steps that have been taken to ensure that uniform prices are not unreasonable.

A copy of the guidelines can be downloaded from the Commerce Commission website under Publications/Guidelines.

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