On 20 June 2017 the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) published the non-confidential version of its infringement decision fining The National Lighting Company (NLC) and three subsidiaries, Saxby, Endon and Poole (together, the NLC Group) for entering into resale price maintenance (RPM) agreements.
The specific infringements related to the following:
(i) NLC, Poole and Saxby participated in an agreement and/or concerted practice with a reseller between 31 October 2012 and 25 February 2013 whereby the reseller would not sell Saxbybranded products below a specified online price (the Saxby infringement); and
(ii) NLC, Poole and Endon participated in an agreement and/or concerted practice with a reseller between 31 May 2013 and 15 June 2016 whereby the reseller would not sell Endon-branded products below a specified online price (the Endon infringement).
The fines imposed on the NLC Group for these infringements amounted to £2.7 million in total. The NLC Group benefitted from reductions of 30 per cent and 20 per cent for, respectively, a successful leniency application and voluntarily entering into settlement with the CMA. The CMA decided, however, to increase the fine for the Endon infringement by 25 per cent because Endon had ignored a warning letter from the CMA in May 2012 (stating that it was potentially infringing competition law due to RPM practices).
In a separate but linked development, the CMA has reissued its open letter to suppliers and retailers about restricting online resale prices. To reflect the latest developments in the light fittings case, the letter revises the advice that was originally issued in May 2016 (following the imposition of fines in relation to bathroom fittings and commercial catering equipment cartels).
The updated letter explains the sort of practices that are deemed to amount to RPM (including, for instance, the use of minimum internet advertised price policies) and advises businesses on what to do if they are or may have been engaged in such practices. It also cautions that both retailers and suppliers may be fined by the CMA if they are found to have been involved in RPM. Finally, it notes that, in view of the light fittings case, warning letters should be taken seriously.