Schools can no longer force parents to buy uniforms from a specific supplier



Parents and small business owners are said to be happy after the Competition Tribunal ruled that schools can no longer force parents to buy their children’s school uniform at a specific supplier.

School uniform: Parents do not have to stick to specific supplier

According to a report from IOL, the tribunal said a consent agreement between uniform supplier McCullagh and Bothwell and the Competition Commission was formed to increase competition, and ensure cheaper prices in the school uniforms market.

Prior to 2015, the commission received numerous complaints relating to the high cost of school uniforms and exclusive agreements preventing suppliers from entering the market.

The commission undertook various advocacy initiatives to address these concerns and launched an extensive investigation in 2017.

“The commission’s investigation found that exclusive supply agreements of a long duration enable school uniform suppliers to charge customers higher prices and prevent other potential suppliers from entering the market and competing for customers.”

Tribunal spokesperson Gillian de Gouveia

An opportunity for job creation

Parents for Equal Education SA founder Vanessa le Roux said that she welcomes the new ruling.

“From a community standpoint, this decision is an opportunity for job creation. Our communities are filled with talented seamstresses who lost their jobs due to factory closures, etc.”

Education MEC Debbie Schäfer’s spokesperson Kerry Mauchline said school uniforms need to be agreed by the school governing body, taking into account the communities they served.

Adhering to the tribunal’s ruling

“Schools must adhere to the requirements of the tribunal in this regard. Preferably school uniforms should be as generic as possible so they are obtainable from many suppliers.”

She said the department had issued a circular to schools for them to comply with the tribunal’s ruling.

The Federation of Associations of Governing Bodies of South African Schools (Fedsas) also said that schools can still celebrate their identity with affordable uniforms available from a range of suppliers.

Affordable school uniforms available from a range of suppliers

Meanwhile, ANC provincial education spokesperson Khalid Sayed said parents who couldn’t afford prices [from certain suppliers in the Western Cape] were victimised, as were their children who were not allowed to enter the school.

Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry president, Jacques Moolman, said:

“Cosy relationships between school management and education departments that favoured some suppliers for reasons sometimes other than quality and price, had to end.

“Whether or not one agrees with mandatory school uniforms, there is no doubt that for some parents they have become a scarcely affordable drain on household income.”



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