By Umamah Bakharia
The Competition Commission has asked schools and parents to report suppliers who appear to unfairly price school uniforms. Schools are no longer allowed to force parents to buy uniforms from a specific supplier. The commission says that schools should appoint more than one school uniform supplier.
Radio Islam spoke to Competition Commission’s divisional manager of Advocacy, Khanyisa Qobo on this matter.
In 2018, the commission tribunal prosecuted some school groups for overcharging for uniforms and reached a settlement agreement with them without penalty but with some clauses about conduct that they should change in relation to their suppliers.
The tribunal in December 2021, took action against a major school uniform supplier McCullagh & Bothwell.
“[We have been] focusing very much on the contractual relationship that the suppliers has with the school which believe may have been constraining into competition and new entrance and eventually having an effect on pricing,” says Qobo.
Spokesperson Siyabulela Makunga says uniforms should be obtainable from as many suppliers as possible.
“School uniform should be as generic as possible such that it is obtainable from as many suppliers possible. Where deemed necessary, exclusivity should only be limited to a few “must-have” items that the schools regard as necessary to obtain from pre-selected suppliers,” he says.
But as schools open this week, a new survey by credit bureau TPN shows that a growing number of parents with children at fee-paying public schools find that they can no longer afford school fees.
“We continue with the advocacy and creating awareness and we hope that this enforcement action will bring the issue in a more pointed way to the schooling community [and] those that are doing business at least on learning related material,” says Qobo.