As suppliers continue to collude with schools, there is a wave of outrage among parents over the exorbitant expenses associated with school uniforms. In response to this issue, the Competition Commission has committed to adopting a resolute approach to addressing unlawful conduct by educational establishments, entities, and individuals involved in such practices.

By Lezeth Khoza

Although the official calendar of the 2024 school year commences on 17 January, the Competition Commission reports it has already received hundreds of complaints from parents regarding the exorbitant cost of school uniforms.

The issue can be traced back to 2010 when it was uncovered that schools were in collusion with suppliers to monopolise the production and sale of school uniforms at marked-up prices.

In 2021, the Competition Commission encouraged parents to report schools and suppliers that fail to comply with established regulations. Nevertheless, recent grievances suggest that some schools and their suppliers are still not abiding by the established guidelines.

To address the issue, the Competition Commission has pledged to ensure that schools that do not comply will be held responsible by taking legal action against those who persist with this behaviour.

“The Commission from the onset was clear that it was not interested in prosecuting schools and that is why we chose to take an advocacy route in dealing with the situation. We are more interested in changing the behaviour in the market, however, schools should not think that the Commission cannot prosecute them.

“The Commission can and will prosecute schools should they continue with this behaviour. Parents that are still finding themselves being forced to procure school uniforms from specific suppliers or schools themselves are welcome to lodge complaints,” said the Commission’s Karabo Motaung in an interview with eNCA.

The Commission states that these agreements between schools and suppliers are made without transparent competitive bidding processes, thereby significantly impeding and reducing competition.

As a result, parents are compelled to bear increased costs. The Commission has received over 220 grievances and remains receptive to additional submissions to mitigate the escalating prices of compulsory school uniforms.

A mother from Ekurhuleni, Christine Mazibuko, shared her frustration about the high cost of school uniforms with The Telegram.

“It is ridiculous, on top of that the schools keep making special uniforms like unnecessary jackets and t-shirts with new patterns and colours. Of course, our kids will want to look nice and blend in with the rest, it creates peer pressure and stress for parents. They fix prices and tell us where to shop with our money.”

Parents can use the following contact information to file complaints with the CCSA:

084 7430000 (WhatsApp)

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