Online sales of posters and frames

The CMA investigated a cartel relating to sales of posters and frames by 2 competing online sellers on Amazon’s UK website.

Case reference: 50223

Case timetable

Date Action
30 September 2016 Publication of non-confidential version of infringement decision
12 August 2016 Infringement decision issued to the parties
August 2016 Receipt and consideration of representations on the statement of objections
27 July 2016 Statement of objections issued
21 July 2016 Settlement announced
April 2016 Decision taken to proceed with the investigation
December 2015 to April 2016 Initial investigation: information gathering, including issuing of formal or informal information requests and analysis of parties’ responses
1 December 2015 Investigation opened

Director disqualification

On 1 December 2016 the CMA announced that Daniel Aston, managing director of Trod Limited, had given a disqualification undertaking not to act as a director of any UK company for 5 years.

The CMA may, under the Company Directors Disqualification Act, seek the disqualification of an individual, either by court order or legally binding undertaking, from holding company directorships or performing certain roles in relation to a company for up to 15 years where that individual has been director of a company which has breached competition law. As Mr Aston was the managing director of Trod at the relevant time, and because he personally contributed to the breach of competition law, the CMA considers that his conduct makes him unfit to be a company director for a specified period.

Follow-up compliance work

7 November 2016: The CMA has launched a campaign to ensure online sellers know how to avoid breaking UK competition law. The CMA is reminding sellers that discussing and agreeing price levels with competitors is illegal, and can result in serious penalties.

The CMA has produced information that includes an at-a-glance summary for online sellers that explains what constitutes ‘price-fixing’ and what they can do to avoid it. There is also a case study that provides more detail on how Trod and GB eye ended up breaking competition law.

The compliance campaign goes hand in hand with the CMA writing to a number of online companies which may be denying customers the best available deals and reminding them of their obligations under competition law. The CMA has also engaged with online marketplace providers which are helping make the CMA’s advice available to online sellers.

Non-confidential infringement decision

30 September 2016: The CMA has published a non-confidential version of the decision in this case.

Infringement decision

12 August 2016: The CMA has issued a decision finding that Trod Limited and GB eye Limited (trading as ‘GB Posters’) infringed competition law by agreeing, from 24 March 2011 (at the latest) to 1 July 2015 (at the earliest) that they would not, in certain specified circumstances, undercut each other’s prices for posters and frames sold on Amazon’s UK website.

The CMA also imposed a fine on Trod of £163,371. This is after deducting a 20% discount to reflect the resource savings to the CMA as a result of Trod’s admission and co-operation with the CMA’s investigation. GB eye reported the cartel to the CMA under the CMA’s leniency policy and has not been fined.

Statement of objections

28 July 2016: Following the settlement announced on 21 July 2016, the CMA has issued a statement of objections setting out the CMA’s case against Trod Limited (the settling party) and GB eye Limited (the immunity applicant, trading as ‘GB Posters’) that, from 24 March 2011 (at the latest) to 1 July 2015 (at the earliest), the parties agreed that they would not undercut each other’s prices for posters and frames sold on Amazon’s UK website.

Settlement

21 July 2016: Trod Limited has admitted agreeing with one of its competing online sellers, GB eye Limited (trading as ‘GB Posters’), that they would not undercut each other’s prices for licensed sport and entertainment posters and frames sold on Amazon’s UK website. The agreement was implemented using automated repricing software which the parties each configured to give effect to the illegal cartel. In a settlement with the CMA, Trod has agreed to accept a fine of £163,371. This is after deducting a 20% discount to reflect the resource savings to the CMA as a result of Trod’s admission and co-operation with the CMA’s investigation.

The other party to the cartel, GB eye, reported the cartel to the CMA under the CMA’s leniency policy and will not be fined, provided it continues to co-operate and complies with the other conditions of the CMA’s leniency policy.

Case information

The CMA launched the investigation on 1 December 2015.

As part of its investigation, the CMA conducted searches on 1 December 2015 at the headquarters of a UK company, Trod Limited, as well as the domestic premises of one of its officers.

The CMA’s searches were co-ordinated with searches carried out by the West Midlands Police on behalf of the US Department of Justice (DoJ), in connection with a separate investigation by the DoJ’s Antitrust Division regarding the sale of wall decor in the USA. The US investigation, which is a criminal investigation and concerns both individuals and businesses, is separate from the CMA’s investigation which is a civil investigation into the activities of businesses.

Contacts

Media contact

Max Malagoni (max.malagoni@cma.gsi.gov.uk or 020 3738 6690)

Assistant project director

Svajune Sakalyte (svajune.sakalyte@cma.gsi.gov.uk, 020 3738 6213)

Project directors

Juliette Enser (juliette.enser@cma.gsi.gov.uk, 020 3738 6857) and Tamara Todorovic (tamara.todorovic@cma.gsi.gov.uk, 020 3738 6598)

Senior responsible officer

Stephen Blake (stephen.blake@cma.gsi.gov.uk, 020 3738 6469)

Anyone with information about suspected anti-competitive activity is encouraged to contact the CMA.

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