The competition watchdog is launching an investigation into reports that some fashion importers are asking retail websites to charge Australians more or block them from buying certain brands.
SmartCompany reported last week that fashion importers, including the International Fashion Group and Some Agency, had reached agreement with fashion brands to stop cheaper online sales from international sites.
These deals have now caught the attention of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, which says it will look at whether they constitute anti-competitive behaviour.
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A spokesperson for the ACCC told SmartCompany, “we are committed to having a look at it and online is a priority.”
Chairman Rod Sims urged any online shopper who suspected they were being charged more for an item because of their location to contact the ACCC.
”We are extremely committed to having a close look at this,” Sims told Fairfax.
”We will make sure that the established players aren’t doing anything against the [law] to block consumers from getting the benefit of the extra competition that they can get through buying online.”
Sims warned companies found to be engaging in these practices could face heavy fines.
”In some instances we might issue an infringement notice that requires them to pay $6,600 per offence … but we could also instigate legal proceedings and, depending on the circumstances, the size of the company, and how much detriment was caused, they could be looking at fines of millions of dollars.”
SmartCompany has contacted IFG and Some Agency but did not receive a reply prior to publication.
Russell Zimmerman, executive director of the Australian Retailers Association told SmartCompany it was not uncommon for brands to protect their value and price point.
“Recent reports local importers reaching agreements with international brands is really an issue for the importer and the brand,” says Zimmerman.
“Retailers are competing in a global environment with their overseas counterparts and the Australian market is exposed to both Australian and overseas shopping environments.
“Research shows Australians who shop online prefer to buy from Australian websites, which is a real opportunity for Australian retailers.
“In order to do this, Australian retailers need relief from operating costs they face as a result of rents, wages and the low value import threshold, which are some of the highest costs in the world.”