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Man Utd fined for price fixing

Man Utd say they are considering an appeal

Fines totalling nearly £19m have been imposed on 10 firms including Manchester United, JJB Sports and Umbro for fixing the price of replica football shirts.

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) found that the firms fixed prices for top selling short-sleeved adult and junior shirts of the England team and Manchester United.

Price agreements were also made among some retailers for the short-sleeved adult and junior shirts for Chelsea, Glasgow Celtic and Nottingham Forest, the OFT said.

The OFT says most of the price-fixing agreements covered key selling periods such as the launch of new kits and England's participation in Euro 2000.

The retailer JJB Sports was fined £8.3m, one of the largest fines ever imposed by the OFT.

The fines imposed reflect the seriousness of the price fixing in this case

John Vickers, Office of Fair Trading

Other businesses fined were Umbro (£6.6m); Manchester United (£1.65m); Allsports (£1.35m); the Football Association (£158,000); Blacks (£197,000); Sports Soccer (£123,000); JD Sports (£73,000); Sports Connection (£20,000); Sportsetail (fine reduced to nil by leniency).

In response, JJB Sports said it would be appealing against the OFT fine.

"JJB is very disappointed that the Office of Fair Trading has found it to be guilty of price-fixing; a charge which it believes is totally unfounded."

JJB went on to accuse the OFT of being "politically motivated".

Manchester United, which has always denied being involved in price fixing, said it was disappointed at the OFT fine and was considering an appeal.

The firms have two months to appeal against the OFT fines.

Better prices

The two-year OFT probe followed complaints by retailers that wanted to sell replica shirts at discounts and said manufacturers had refused to supply them.

Will fans soon be able to celebrate cheaper shirts?

Under new rules the OFT has the right to impose penalties of up to 10% of turnover on firms found guilty of uncompetitive behaviour.

"The fines imposed reflect the seriousness of the price fixing in this case," said OFT chairman John Vickers.

"Since we launched our investigation the prices of replica football shirts have fallen and consumers can now shop around and get a better price."

In 2000, the OFT found that, even after shopping around, replica football kits were priced at about £40.

However, a random mystery-shop by OFT investigators earlier this year found wide differences in prices charged, indicating a breakdown of the price fixing arrangement.

On Thursday, supermarket chain Asda said it would sell Manchester United replica shirts for less than £25.

The company said it bought 6,500 of the club's home shirts on the grey market in Europe because they had been unable to get them through official channels.

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