Black Friday is just around the corner, and while shoppers may be looking forward to making big savings the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has issued a warning to online retailers about price-fixing.

The consumer body has not revealed which retailers it has written to, but it says that “a number of online companies” have received letters. It’s part of a campaign to make it clear to companies selling online that “discussing and agreeing price levels with competitors is illegal, and can result in serious penalties”.

The CMA has previously been involved in clamping down on price-fixing in Amazon’s marketplace, but it’s not known if Amazon sellers have been targeted with this latest campaign.

The campaign aims to highlight that, among other things, retailers must not:

  • agree with their competitors what prices they will charge, or that they won’t undercut each other on price
  • discuss their pricing intentions or strategies with competitors

Stephen Blake, Senior Director of the CMA’s Cartels and Criminal Group, said:

Online markets are a hugely valuable tool for consumers to shop around and find the best value products, making the most of effective competition. But these benefits for shoppers are put at risk if the suppliers seek to restrict competition between them.

The CMA is strongly committed to tackling anti-competitive behavior in online markets. Entering into agreements that limit price competition cheats consumers, is illegal and can have serious consequences for the companies and individuals involved.

He went on to say:

We recognize that the majority of online sellers want to comply with the law. As we enter the peak shopping months of November and December, sellers should make sure they have read our advice so they don’t get caught out. The consequences for those who don’t can be serious.

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